Vegetarians, vegans, those with food allergies, or abide by Kosher standards, picky eaters — they all have one thing in common: Residential dining at USC is a little rough for them.
It is true that ducking into Everybody’s Kitchen or Parkside to take advantage of an unlimited meal plan between classes is super convenient.
It is also true that disappointing food is bound to be part of almost any college experience.
And this is a reality USC campus residents are not allowed to say no to.
It might ease the conscience of the Office for Residential Education knowing they have ensured a means for students to eat every day. Requring extensive meal plans for some students, however, simply doesn’t make sense.
They must have a meal plan, and for any of them specifically living in a dorm, this meal plan must be one that is costly.
It sends the message that freshmen — the vast majority of whom are legal adults — do not have the right to make their own decisions about what to eat, when to eat and where to get their food.
Neither EVK nor Parkside is required to provide a certain quantity of food friendly to vegans, allergy sufferers or others with different preferences.
Other dining venues, like the campus center, are not necessarily a better alternative to EVK or Parkside because many students cannot afford to dine at such venues every day.
Nor should they have to when they are already shelling out $2,500 or more per semester for a meal plan.
The same goes for students who would rather take a more active role in the management of their nutritional health.
The university, however, makes it impossible for students to live like this, perhaps because it might not believe students have the means to stay consistently and healthily fed.
In reality, it is possible to eat healthily without ever using an oven, or any of the appliances banned from USC dorm rooms; in fact, there’s a trend of nutrition known as raw foodism that uses this exact practice.
A mini fridge and some space under the bed will do the job just fine.
Such eating habits might come off as extreme to some, but there are several reasons behind not wanting a meal plan. One, of course, is dietary restriction.
Another might be that someone wants to learn more about cooking. A third is money.
The Cardinal Plan, the cheapest and most basic available meal plan for most residential freshmen, costs nearly $150 a week — far more than the average student independently spends on groceries.
A smart shopper can feed a family of four on $150 a week, according to The New York Times.
Requiring a meal plan for certain on-campus dorms tells students who would prefer an alternative dining arrangement that USC does not want them to be responsible for their own nutritional well-being.
The university could encourage student responsibility and cater better to unusual or restricted diets by making meal plans optional for all undergraduates.
As for the conscience of Residential Education? That problem can easily be fixed. A liability waiver could be made available to any on-campus residents who elect not to purchase a meal plan.
Students who make this choice could also be required to attend one or two counseling sessions at the Health Center to ensure they have their nutrition on track.
Food preferences tend to be as diverse as the students who have them; USC needs to bear this in mind and scratch its meal plan requirement.
Francesca Bessey is an undeclared freshman.