Palm Beach Atlantic University released its meal plan options for the upcoming school year at the beginning of April. Immediately, according to several sources, this sparked controversy between PBA administration and the Student Government Association (SGA) because students had little opportunity to speak up.
Initially, this story was brought to The Beacon by several SGA members who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for the organization.
After the release, SGA expressed two main concerns to the school: 1) the requirement for all main campus dorm residents to buy all-access meal plans; 2) the elimination of the block 160 plan.
The block 160 option this semester (spring 2017) came to $1,705 and included 160 meals with 100 flex dollars. But in the fall, residents of Baxter Hall, Johnson Hall, Oceanview Hall, Rinker Hall and Weyenberg Hall will be forced to purchase an all-access plan; the cheapest one entitled “Bronze” will be $1,999 and it includes 25 flex dollars (along with unlimited meals at the Frasier Dining Hall).
The argument the SGA executive team made to Dean of Students Kevin Abel was that a majority of students living on campus will now be required to pay for meals they will not be eating
The Beacon discovered that residential advisors (and students living with RA’s) signed their contracts at least a week prior to the meal plan prices being made public. Several people interviewed on background told The Beacon staff this did not sit well with many RAs in Johnson Hall. They were the first to discover the unfavorable alterations to meal plans.
PBA administrators consulted SGA prior to the release of the meal plan options for feedback. But when concerns arose, no changes were made. When asked why SGA didn’t do more to publicly protest the limited choices to be offered later this year, several sources told The Beacon the SGA fears protests on behalf of students will lead to their budget being cut by the administration.
Speaking on behalf of the student body, SGA sources told The Beacon those who plan on purchasing meal plans should be able to see the terms of the contracts involving meal plans and be informed of when the contract is being re-negotiated.
“I think that we should be holding administration and Aramark to a higher standard of communicating what is going on,” an SGA member said.
Freshman communications major and musical theatre minor Collette Kent is planning on living in Oceanview Hall next year. She says she would have planned to move off campus if she had known about the meal plan changes earlier in the year.
“I feel like they really made a mistake in not coming to any students and not considering SGA’s position,” Kent said. “I’m gonna have to pay a lot more to come here, and I wasn’t prepared for that, at all.”
The Beacon interviewed Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services and Procurement Mark Bresnahan to discuss the terms of the contract in detail. Because the contract between PBA and Aramark - created in 2010 and set to end in 2020 – calls for incrementals increases in meal costs, these plans were created to meet budget.
According to Bresnahan, the meal plan structure’s annual review works with student life, dean of students, the director for sailfish dining, auxiliary services and is reviewed by Senior Vice President John Katz. Each year, meal plan prices go up approximately 3-5 percent; the prices for next year follow this trend.
“I have not had any one student talk to me. . . I don’t talk to a lot of students on campus. . . but I have not had one student talk to me on the meal plans,” Bresnahan said.
Reducing the amount of meal plans from eight to six is said to make the choosing process simpler for students.
“It’s about making the plans more equitable across the board,” Bresnahan said. “Certainly, we think it’s a good thing when people are on campus, in the dining hall eating. There’s a greater sense of community when you’re seeing your fellow students in there.”
Dean of Students Kevin Abel said he was addressed by SGA and resident directors on the issue. He relayed the information that RA’s were given some special deal after carefully considering their complaints.
“We met with [RA’s] prior to Easter and talked to them about some alternatives,” Abel said.
Abel said 13 percent of PBA students currently have the block 160 plan; while these 13 percent may suffer due to the new requirement of having all-access plans, the other 87 percent may be pleased to see meal plan prices staying relatively consistent with that of the 2016-2017 school year.
“I do think there’s enhancements in almost every other plan, it’s just those 13 percent who are on the 160. . . when you look at the majority of students who are on the meal plan, many of them are going to see positive increases and changes in their meal plan,” Abel said.
The dean made it clear that the SGA Executive Team was granted access to review the meal plans before they were released. The Executive Team then voiced their concerns about block 160’s absence, which Abel says could not be addressed.
“It was something I shared back through our channels. . . We wouldn’t be able to do everything we could with the rest of the plans at that point,” Abel said.