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Saturday, July 02, 2022
After meeting with students, UW-Madison revises dining policy.

After meeting with students, UW-Madison revises dining policy.

Housing leaders revise meal plan, allow for money back, choice to opt out

After over two weeks of pushback from student organizations and shared governance groups, changes will be made to the controversial meal plan that will require new dorm residents to deposit a minimum of $1,400 onto their WisCard for dining, university officials said Friday.

While residents will still be required to make a minimum deposit onto their WisCard exclusively for on-campus dining, students can now carry over unused meal plan funds on their account for the next academic year, according to the revised plan.

Housing Director Jeff Novak said students returning to UW-Madison, regardless of whether they live in dorms or off campus, can spend the leftover money at on-campus dining locations. Novak said it has not yet been determined whether students returning to the dorms after the 2018-’19 academic year will be required to re-enter the tiered system.

In addition to allowing students to save unused funds, the new plan will offer an appeals process for students who want to opt out of the plan due to religious dietary restrictions or other circumstances that Dining Services cannot accommodate.

According to Novak, students who wish to opt out of the plan should meet with dining officials to discuss it. The process is not meant to be difficult, Novak said, and officials will not expect students to prove their dietary history.

Novak said the options the university provides are based on the demand for the items, saying that if there were more requests for options, they would “absolutely” work with providers to accommodate students.

“We go to great lengths to accommodate all of our students every year, and we believe that we meet most every need that our students bring to us,” Novak said. “Where we cannot accommodate them, we will relieve them. We are not trying to make this difficult for our students.”

Students who opt out of the tiered system may still dine at the on-campus locations and will not be required to deposit the minimum of $1,400 onto their WisCard.

Jacqueline Beaulieu, Associated Students of Madison’s shared governance campaign director who has been opposed to the plan since she first heard about it two weeks ago, said that while these changes are “important steps,” more needs to be done.

Beaulieu said university officials need to provide more information to students about how processes like the opt-out would work and said she wants the “mandate aspect” of the plan to “completely go away.”

“I really hope that Director Novak will at least agree to a shared governance committee or task force that a wide variety of students who will be affected by this can sit down with administration to talk about this more because I don’t think this is enough,” Beaulieu said.

Novak stressed that the meal plan is put in place to allow students to get a better idea of how much they are spending on food, saying UW-Madison’s à la carte program is the most affordable among other Big Ten schools.

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“Comparatively to every other institution, this is a very affordable plan,” he said. “We are trying to provide a great program for our students for the long term.”

Novak said he has not heard comment from students who have already signed their housing contracts for next year.

The meal plan will be reviewed — with student input — after two years to determine whether additional changes are needed to ensure that it is meeting the dietary needs of students, according to Novak.

UPDATE Dec. 15, 4:54 p.m.: Housing Director Jeff Novak was initially referred to as director of dining services for the university. 

UPDATE Dec. 15, 6:23 p.m.: This article was updated to include additional information from Novak and a comment from Beaulieu.

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