College News

Dining director takes heat from Student Council on controversial meal plan

Director of Housing and Dining Jeff Novak answered Student Council members' questions about the controversial meal plan.

Image By: Jon Yoon

After months of student outcry against the controversial mandatory meal plan, Director of Housing and Dining Jeff Novak came before Student Council to address concerns Tuesday night.

Novak said the plan is a solution that will maintain financial stability for dining facilities, even though the plan was initially introduced as a way to provide greater transparency for students and their families as to how much they would spend in the dining halls.

“We must have a customer base to start out with, so that we can operate all of our facilities,” Novak said. “Without a revenue or a financial base to start off with, we would not be able to employ our staff and keep prices down to levels that they currently are at.”

The meal plan — revealed in early December — requires incoming students living in residence halls to deposit a minimum of $1,400 into a specific Resident Food Account on their WisCards. Money can be loaded in quarterly deposits of $350 and can only be spent in on-campus dining locations.

Since then, students have protested the plan at Gordon Dining Hall where protestors temporarily blocked off entrance into the dining hall and threw dining trays. A few weeks later, students organized at Four Lakes Market where they called out for Novak’s resignation, taped a poster with their signatures reading “End This Discriminatory Meal Plan” to the University Housing Office door and walked around with handmade signs.

“Many students and alumni commented that, had this policy been in place when they were freshmen, they would not have been able to afford living at the university,” said Rena Newman Tuesday.

Still, Novak noted that the plan is similar to and is the cheapest of all the other schools in the Big 10.

He also highlighted that because of conversations with concerned students, the meal plan now allows for students to get a refund on money they don’t spend and have solidified the appeals process for those with dietary restrictions.

So far, two incoming freshmen have been exempted from the plan due to dietary and religious reasons, he said.

“We don’t want this to be difficult,” Novak said. “We want this to be easy for those students.”

Lawrence Andrea contributed to this report.

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