While it’s no secret to anyone, it can’t be denied that students are still feeling the effects of the removal of meal swipes at Sufficient Grounds. “The Bethel Beacon” has gotten official perspectives from the Acorn about increased customer volume, but what are students really saying?
“I came in and I experienced it when it was bad. I never experienced it when it was good,” said freshman Paul Cooke. “So I guess I would say, yeah, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. I really do because I like the Bethel bucks thing. It’s a really cool opportunity that I don’t think a lot of small colleges have. I would say I’m content with what I get for the money.”
“I know in the beginning of the year…it’s just been like they’re slowly bringing it back,” said sophomore transfer Nick Skwarcan. “I just eat…[at] the Acorn and sometimes I’ll stop for a coffee. I’m on 140 flex, 140 swipes [and] 250 Bethel bucks. [I] feel like I’m getting my fair share and more than I need.”
So is Student Development hearing students’ requests?
“It’s been addressed by Benji and by Shawn,” said Kyle Busse, a senior here. “I think it’s been well laid out and well communicated. There’s still a little uncertainty about why. I’ve heard a few explanations, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard from Shawn. I think students’ first choice would have been to revert to last year, but I do think it’s good that they repeal some of the things. I don’t really care, because I eat here [at the Dining Commons.]”
But some students have a bit more at stake than their favorite Sufficient Grounds pizza. Enter junior theatre major Aly Arnold.
“Meal swipes have changed me because not only is there, like, no food at [Sufficient Grounds], there’s also no food in the [Academic Center], and so therefore my only two options are Acorn and [Dining Commons],” said Arnold. “And because I have classes from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. straight, the time I get out is 1:00 p.m., the DC’s closed, my only option is Acorn, and I don’t have time in the morning to just grab breakfast because of the fact that I have an 8:00 a.m. And so I don’t get breakfast in the morning, and by the time I eat, at like 1:30 because the Acorn’s packed, I’m shaking because I’m hypoglycemic. It’s great. I’ve nearly fainted twice now.”
Arnold used to get food from the Café a la Carte in the Academic Center, but now that that’s been shut down, she doesn’t have any options from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Arnold usually solves this problem by providing her own breakfast, lunch and occasionally dinner. But with that arrangement, she feels that paying for her meal plan is a waste of money.
“I’m on the 350 flex plan and I’ve spent so much money on either going to Tradewinds [or] buying coffee in the morning that I’m at, like, 200 dollars at this point and we’re like five weeks into school,” she said. “And I’ve used maybe 10 meal swipes. Maybe. 15 tops probably. But I’m like, I’m not using meal swipes at all. So I feel like I’m wasting my money because I don’t have options and I don’t have options in a timely fashion.”
Since this is a health issue, Arnold has gotten in contact with Student Development about getting herself taken off the meal plan if the administration cannot help her get food in a timely manner to prevent fainting or dizzy spells. She said that Julie Beam, director of student life, has sent her an email setting up a meeting. I asked Arnold what other response she’s received from Student Development.
“I haven’t gotten any other responses, no,” she said. “Because I tried for about two weeks to see if I could tailor my schedule and see if maybe I could do other things to help it and stuff like that, and it just didn’t.”
Arnold tried getting a scone in the morning, packing a snack or simply getting to the Acorn faster after her classes, but nothing was sufficient to combat her hypoglycemia.
“I’ve tried everything, honestly, I feel like, and it doesn’t matter, the line here [at the Acorn] is so long that by the time I get out of class… that by the time I actually get my food and can sit down, I’m either shaking, dizzy or starting to see flecks, which is not okay,” she said. “So I didn’t contact them until about two…two and a half weeks after the school year started, and it took them about a week, a week and a half to contact me back about even chatting with me about it.”
Arnold also expressed that her options are further limited by the fact that the cheese-based soups at the Acorn cause her indigestion, as does the food at the Dining Commons occasionally. And even when it doesn’t cause digestion problems, the hours don’t match up with her eating schedule.
“I’m a student that eats around 7:00, 8:00 p.m., and the DC’s only open from 5:00 to 7:00,” said Arnold. “So that’s another problem I run into. And so I eat small snacks throughout the day after lunch, and then by the time the DC’s open and I have time to get food...[family and I] usually end up eating at, like, 9:00, which is not good for me. My body has a schedule, and the school doesn’t accommodate for that.”
I asked Arnold if she felt that Student Development was concerned with her problem based on the response she received.
“The fact that they’re actually planning to meet with me, I do feel like they do care to some extent, and the fact that Shawn made it pretty prevalent the other day in chapel that they were trying to do things, it feels like they are trying, but sometimes I don’t know how hard necessarily they’re trying,” she said.
She added later, “But granted, I don’t know how much they can try, due to finances and everything.”
Arnold is hoping to come to a compromise with the administration, such as a reduced plan that only includes a certain amount of Bethel bucks and a limited amount of swipes that would cost her less than the full meal plan.
“…getting a reduced price because of the fact that I’m not actually eating any of their food, would possibly be nice. Because if they can’t at least take me off the meal plan, I would hope that they wouldn’t make me pay, because I’m pretty sure I’m paying between like 1,000 dollars a semester or something like that. And I’m like, for the food I’m not eating. That’s ridiculous,” she said.
Arnold added, “I’m just basically throwing money down the drain right now and as a student who’s actually paying her way through college, with my own money, that’s kind of a lot to just not use and to basically throw at nothing.”
Finally, I asked Arnold what she would do if she was unable to come to a compromise with Student Development.
“I honestly don’t know,” she said. “If we can’t come to a compromise, I’ll probably end up fighting the school a little bit about it, because it is a health problem for me, I mean, that’s something I can’t help. I can get a doctor’s note if I need to or anything like that, but I can’t help the fact that my body, after so long of not having nutrients, starts to shake and shut down basically. I can’t help that.”
Arnold said that she had a random fainting spell over the summer that was rectified by her getting food soon enough. But she’s concerned that if the same problem happened on campus, she wouldn’t be able to get food in time to recover.
Arnold concluded, “…it is a health issue for me, it’s not something I can really do too much about, other than just being like, hey this is my health, I’m sorry, but this needs to be put above that, because I can’t worry about my health while I’m trying to worry about my classes. Because I’m here for college.”
As for what effect these comments from students will actually have, we’ll have to wait and see. But suffice it to say that the meal policy conversation hasn’t been swiped away quite yet