Student government leaders are crying foul after a heated meeting with CSU’s Housing and Dining Services director who they say refused to provide public information and to discuss a roll-over meal plan that could save students money.
HDS officials said that implementing the plan would leave the department with less money to fund necessary operating costs – including food, utilities and salaries ññ and student would end up footing the bill.
“While allowing students to roll over the unused meals from one semester to the next would seem to be an obvious solution,” said Director Deon Lategan in an e-mail to the Collegian, “in reality it would sharply decrease our revenues, resulting in higher priced meal plans to all students.”
When they met Lategan to get specific statistics and discuss their roll-over idea, Associate Senator David Ambrose and Senator Katie Marshall of the Associated Students of CSU said Lategan did not cooperate.
According to the senators’ meeting notes, Lategan refused to give them documentation showing how unused student money is allocated in the HDS budget and told them, “I do not want to give you something that will end up on the front page of the newspaper.”
“. being opposed to exploring a roll-over meal plan in detail, with its benefits and shortfalls, bothers me as a representative of the students,” Ambrose said in a statement. “Students’ budgets are extremely tight in these tough economic times and all options need to be thoroughly explored.”
But Lategan said later in an e-mail to the Collegian, “It was not a refusal to provide this information, it just wasn’t readily available.”
And Tonie Miyamoto, the director of communications for HDS, “. it takes a little bit of time to pull those (statistics) . and he didn’t feel he could give accurate statistics on the fly.”
A look at the numbers
Miyamoto said the department plans the year’s budget, including allocations for salaries, food and renovations, each spring based on upfront meal plans revenues.
HDS is a non-profit department not funded by the university, which means its total expenses and total revenues are equal and the institution makes no money.
The department’s budget for fiscal year 2009 is $56,163,455, and Lategan said in his e-mail message that about 25 percent of meals go unused every year.
Ambrose and Marshall expressed concern that students might lose money from unused meals and said the program should foster an open dialogue with students about how the money should be spent.
“If it’s true that the current system is saving students’ money, that’s great,” Marshall said. “But even if it is, students should still have a say in where and how their money is being spent.”
Miyamoto said the about $1.8 in leftover meal cash was “reinvested” in CSU students.
Miyamoto and Lategan said students aren’t losing money and that HDS allocates all the money from unused meals to pay for dozens of special events every year, improvements to food quality and other mandatory costs.
“The facts are quite basic – if we shrink our revenues, then we will deeply impact the quality of the dining program,” Lategan said in his e-mail. “I don’t believe that it is in the best interest of our students who participate in the dining program.
“The revenue allows us to provide late-night hours, special events, vegan/vegetarian options, local produce, specialty items like sushi and smoothies,” he said.
Changing meal plans
Ambrose and Marshall said they were appalled when Lategan answered “Yes” after they asked if he felt it was “right that students lose millions of dollars per semester,” referring to the $1.8 million that comes from unused meals.
They reported Lategan told them that “choosing the wrong meal plan is a life lesson and should be something (students) learn from,” and students are often “asleep at the helm” if they lose meals.
But Lategan said he never agreed it’s “right for students or anyone to lose money,” adding that the program has the financial best interests of students at heart.
Lategan and Miyamoto said HDS recently expanded its resources including a new Web site where students can see how many meals they have remaining, review dining history, purchase more meals and open a RamCash account.
Today is the deadline to switch to a new meal plan.
The new HDS Web site can be found at http://www.mealplans.colostate.edu.
Assistant News Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.