As the spring semester comes to a conclusion, many students must resolve the issue of budgeting their meal plans before the sweet summer days can melt away their discontent. Along with bearing the title of a “residential student” at Stony Brook comes the burden of having a mandatory meal plan, unless you are fortunate enough to live in a cooking suite. Meal plans at Stony Brook are available in four options: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum, to accommodate for almost any diet. Regardless of the extent of your meal plan, chances are that you have encountered fluctuations with either being over-budget or under-budget throughout the term.
While being under-budget is a severe dilemma, the Faculty Student Association (FSA) has taken the liberty of stating online that you can add more money to your meal plan if necessary. However, that leaves the problem of being over-budget out of the picture. With less than a month of school left, students are frantically swiping their points away in hopes of finishing their meal plans before the last day of classes, seeing as meal points cannot be transferred into the next semester.
At Stony Brook University, meal points are tax-exempt. Thus, for every purchase of food we make at on-campus dining venues, we are given an 8.625 percent discount. Even though these discounts are benefits that help sustain meal plans for as long as possible, they signify a living nightmare for students who cannot outpace their budgets with their purchases. Considering the absence of buffet-style eating establishments and the presence of inflated food prices, an excess of meal points seems nearly impossible since we must usually pay per item at exorbitant prices. Nonetheless, students somehow manage to evade debt through their dissatisfaction with campus food, resiliently small appetites and frequent trips back home.
Though it is unlikely to transform how the meal plan system operates at Stony Brook, I think one way the FSA can help students is by publicizing alternative ways in which meal points can be spent. For instance, the other day, I saw a flyer in the library announcing that the Oxfam America Club was going to hold Oxjam, a musical festival, in the Student Union, at which meal points could be donated. This came as a complete shock to me, for I never knew that meal points could be given away for charitable causes to help support local food banks. Another method worth shedding light on is how students can purchase goods, such as thermoses, tea boxes and coffee bags at Starbucks with their meal points. The only requirement is that food or beverages must be purchased along with them.
Students may not realize it, but meal points symbolize a type of currency at Stony Brook that go far beyond fulfilling the needs of acquiring food. If the FSA took the effort to announce how meal points could be spent on their website, instead of merely listing the perks and savings that come with obtaining a meal plan, many students, including myself, would be very thankful.