Canes. Panda Express. Tropical Cafe. Panera. Chipotle.

Imagine every restaurant I just named is ten feet away from your freshman dorm. Heaven on earth right? Not exactly because students would be wasting their money.

It is mandatory for freshman who live on campus to pay for the 7-Day Access Plan, as you can see here.

This means a student pays for unlimited meal swipes, $300 dining dollars, and 5 guest swipes. You can use your meal swipes at dining halls and use your dining dollars only at restaurants on campus. All of this adds up to be $2,115 per semester, which is also shown in the link I provided above.

If a freshman does not spend all that money, they do not get one cent refunded back to them (at the end of the school year). This amount of money required to pay is ridiculous because students would spend nowhere near that number if they were deciding where and when to eat on their own.

Now, remember all those food places I mentioned in the beginning being ten feet away? I am a freshman who lives on campus in Clement Hall which happens to be ten feet away from all those restaurants. My dorm is far from most of the dining halls and on the very edge of campus, yet I am still required to pay for unlimited meal swipes AND dining dollars.

Why should I be forced to walk all the way across campus to get food I do not want when I can step right outside my dorm and enjoy the food I really enjoy?

Even when I do happen to trudge my way across campus and go to the Stokely dining hall, it is very disappointing. When I get there, all I see is burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, and Japanese food. Now, there is nothing wrong with unhealthy food a couple times a week, but should they not serve some appetizing vegetables or salads?

There were barely any vegetables, and no cut up fruit, or a variety of salads. I had already eaten an unhealthy meal for lunch, so I wanted to eat something good for me, but that could not happen while I was at Stokely dining hall. If the school is going to make all freshman pay an absurd amount of money for meal swipes, then they should at least have a better variety of the food chain.

Some students do get to eat what they want and where they want while living on campus at a university as a freshman. My friend who goes to the University of North Carolina is a freshman, and she tells me that no student is required to pay for a meal plan. Her roommate happens to be one of those students who does not have a meal plan and lives on campus.

So, I asked her roommate a couple of questions about her thoughts regarding not having a meal plan, now that she has been through a couple months of school. She says that “it is so great” because she happens to live on the edge of campus also and so going to a “dining hall hasn’t come to [her] mind once” since she has been in school. She explains that “it is nice not having to feel guilty about wasting money on food” that she will never eat.

The University of Tennessee does not agree with that method of allowing students to have a choice. The school explains that forcing all freshmen who live on campus to participate in the 7-day access meal plan gives students educational, social, and dietary benefits.

The educational part is wrong because we had to pay so much money for meals, that there is no learning how to balance our spending on food for when we do not have all that extra money to rely on next year. Socially, most students sit by themselves for a quick meal, sit with the few people they already know, or take their meal back to their dorm. There is barely any new social interaction. As for the dietary benefits… I think it is safe to say there are not many, considering my personal experience visiting one of the dining halls as explained earlier.

All in all, there is no reason why freshmen living on campus should be forced to pay for the 7-day access meal plan while they instead, could choose which plan suits them best.

Anna Benson can be reached at abenso12@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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