New sorority dining plan sparks controversy, criticism

Sorority women required to purchase larger meal plans than ever before


Ellen Kanzinger

Sorority women face higher prices and less flexilibity with new meal plan. Photo by Savannah Kimble ‘18.

Katrina Lewis

For the first time, Washington and Lee Dining Services is requiring sorority members to purchase a larger meal plan than their fraternal and independent counterparts.   

     Sorority women living in Greek housing are now the only students, other than first-years, who must purchase the continuous dining plan, the most expensive option offered by W&L. Fraternity men living in their houses must only purchase a plan for seven meals per week, a less restrictive policy than is offered to Greek women.

     Claire McCutcheon, ‘19, said she wishes she had known about the changes in sorority meal plan requirements before she agreed to live in her sorority’s house.

     “I had no choice of a meal plan, and I wasn’t fully aware of the meal plan’s change and its change in cost,” McCutcheon said.

     Amanda Ebling, ‘19, said that although she does not like her continuous dining plan, she knows that she should be using it to purchase the majority of her meals.

     “I prefer going to the grocery store and choosing what I want,” Ebling said, “but I feel guilted into using the required meal plan because I know that I’m paying for it.”

     Director of Dining Services Michael Zanie said that the meal plan’s most notable changes affect sorority women’s dining requirements because the swipe-based system used last year on sorority row was not followed.

     Zanie said that data recorded by Dining Services showed that sorority women were not swiping as often as they should have been when eating on the row, and instead, were saving their swipes to use elsewhere.

     Last year sorority members living in the house were required to purchase a 15-meal plan, which was less expensive, yet more restrictive, than the continuous meal plan mandated for house residents this year. Dining Services tried to enforce the swipe system by not counting mandatory chapter dinners as a swipe, and by placing the swipe machines more locally as a reminder.

     Zanie estimated that students used swipes to pay for only one out of every five meals eaten.

     He said that based on the number of plates used and the amount of food consumed, girls on the 15-meal plan last year ate 80 percent of the amount of food they had eaten the year before when they were restricted to only eating at the house. The girls on last year’s plan used 43,000 swipes at on-campus dining facilities when they had not been able to use any swipes the year before.

     Between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, Dining Services saw a difference between 100 percent of food eaten at the house versus 80 percent of the previous year’s food eaten at the house with the addition of 43,000 swipes used.

     Zanie said he wanted to be able to give sorority women the variety and flexibility of using swipes outside of sorority row. But he knew that the 2016-2017 meal plan would also need to consider the expectation that women were eating, and paying for, meals on the row.

     The meal plan introduced for the 2016-2017 school year therefore mandates that all upper-class Greek women have a minimum of 10 meal swipes per week, even if they live off campus.

     Asha Campbell, ‘17, said she thinks that the meal plan is not necessary for seniors to have.

“I try to use the 10-plan because I have it,” said Asha Campbell, ‘17, “[but] I wish that it wasn’t required for seniors. After we graduate we will have to go on to cook for ourselves, and most of us were on the 5-plan as juniors, so it feels like we’re going backwards.”

But fraternity men and unaffiliated students living off campus have no meal plan minimum requirements.

Sorority women have questioned why fraternity men have fewer requirements, but what many do not realize is that the men have separate meal plans to pay for that are subcontracted with their fraternities. Zanie said that university meal plans, like the 7-meal plan, are intended to be supplementary to their in-house plans, which is why men have the option to opt out of the university plans.

The larger meal plan has, however, been appreciated by athletes.

Kelsey Jervis, ’18, said she appreciates the convenience of using the larger plan to eat on campus before and after her soccer practices.

“As an athlete I don’t mind the fact that we can’t lower the meal plan to seven [swipes],” Jervis said.

Field hockey player Maggie Sands, ’18, agreed. She even increased her minimum 10-meal plan to a 15-meal plan.

But Jervis said she thinks that she is not as against the revisions because she is an athlete, and therefore more likely to be on campus during meal times to use her swipes.

“I understand [non-athletes’] frustration regarding the fact that they can’t downsize, especially when we have full kitchens in junior housing,” Jervis said.

Lauren McManus, ’18, said she preferred the flexibility of her 5-meal plan when she was a sophomore living with a kitchen in a Woods Creek apartment. McManus said she would like to use the kitchen she has in her junior housing apartment more often to cook for herself.

But even if McManus were to live in Woods Creek this year, she would be required, as a sorority member, to purchase the minimum “10-plan.”

Julia Udicious, ’19, opted to live in Woods Creek instead of her sorority’s house. Now she is grateful to have the lower requirement of a 10-meal plan instead of the continuous dining plan.

“I feel fortunate to have avoided the unlimited swipes requirement,” Udicious said.