Students across campus were surprised last week when they walked into dining halls and found notices that, should they be caught removing utensils, food or drinks from a dining facility, they would be fined $100 per offense.
Though the new policy is fair in its attempt to impede students from walking out with utensils, which are owned by the dining halls, USC Hospitality is wrong to restrict student access to the food they have rightly paid for and is in violation of its own commitment to provide students a positive residential experience.
All students living on campus are required to purchase a meal plan — at a cost many would argue is greater than its worth. The Cardinal Meal Plan, the least expensive option, costs $2,550 per semester and includes no dining dollars. This means that in a single semester, students with this plan pay $21.25 per day to eat exclusively dining hall meals.
Such a cost for meals of sometimes subpar quality should be enough to allow students to walk out with small amounts of food, such as a sandwich, burger, slice of pizza or a piece of cake.
According to the fee notice, the aim of the new policy is to “keep costs down for everyone.” But the snacks students take to-go, for times when they are in a hurry or the dining hall is closing, do not increase costs at all. Students would have eaten that food no matter what; where they eat it has nothing to do with how much it costs.
In reality, this new policy drives food costs up for students, who now have to buy snacks and late-night meals elsewhere on campus on top of the meal plan they’re already required to pay for.
Not to mention the fine is out of touch with the way students’ schedules work. Though students with unlimited entries to dining halls are allowed to eat as many times as they want per day at no extra charge, it is unrealistic to expect that students would have enough time to visit a dining hall every two hours for a snack.
Even if students visit dining halls only two or three times a day, many cannot sit down and eat while still being on time for their next class or obligation. Long walks, long lines and slow service — particularly during dining hall rush hours — sometimes necessitate that students eat their meals on the go.
But the new policy prevents students from doing so, in spite of their right to consume the food they have paid for. Students end up shoveling down their food at unhealthy speeds, paying little attention to portion size or the nutritional content of what they’re eating.
The consequences of these unhealthy eating habits are particularly troublesome — and even dangerous — for students who have special dietary needs. Students who have diabetes, for example, might need to snack throughout the day in order to maintain necessary blood glucose levels. By implementing such a fee, USC Hospitality compromises the health of those students with dietary restrictions whom they have promised to accommodate.
USC cannot continue to promote a positive residential experience while making it inconvenient and unhealthy for students to eat. The new $100 fee must be reconsidered to make residential dining positive again.
Georgia Soares is a freshman majoring in English.