Threats of rising meal plan prices loom as students sneak into Deacon Jones Dining Hall
An ongoing issue involving students sneaking into the dining hall without paying could result in the possible raising of meal plan prices and disciplinary actions, a Lee Clarion investigation reveals.
On Aug. 22, 2017, the Deacon Jones Dining Hall reopened after undergoing several renovations, including a new fenced-in outdoor seating area. This seating area, intended to provide students with a way to enjoy their meals outside, has also provided a means for some students to sneak into the dining hall without swiping their card.
The outdoor seating area is reached by exiting from inside the dining hall and through the west side doors. However, there is a gate intended as an exit from the seating area that is being utilized by some students to sneak into the dining hall, instead of entering through the front doors and paying for their meal.
Junior anthropology student Olivia Anderson frequently visits the outdoor seating space and said she can see how easily students could sneak in unnoticed through the gate.
“The gate is pretty much open at all times,” Anderson said.
After a series of direct observations of this issue over a series of days, Lee Clarion witnessed multiple instances of students entering the cafeteria without paying.
On a Monday afternoon, during the lunch period at 1:00 p.m. from 1:30 p.m., five students entered through the gate of seating area, avoiding paying for their meal.
On the following Tuesday morning, after chapel had ended around 11:45 a.m., a total of seven students bypassed the front door, passing through the gate to enter the dining hall. Three students were in a group, entering through the gate together; the remaining four students had entered in separately.
Finally on a Wednesday morning, during the continental breakfast period from 8 a.m - 8:45 a.m., one student had entered through the gate of the seating area.
In that time frame alone, 13 students sneaked into the dining hall without swiping their meal cards or paying through another means—violating Sodexo’s policies.
As detailed on Lee University’s dining services webpage, one meal swipe on a student’s card will gain entry into the dining hall. Other payment options include Burgundy Bucks or declining balance, with no taxes charged. One can also pay with cash or card. The average price for a meal swipe is $4.05.
The door price for breakfast in the dining hall is $6.15. Lunch is $8.50, and dinner is $9.40. If a student goes without paying for a meal, the average amount of money taken from Sodexo is $8.01.
Bruce Reed, the General Manager at Sodexo, is aware of the issue of students sneaking into the dining hall and said disciplinary action is set to be taken against those who are caught in the act.
“If students are seen sneaking in, they will be addressed by Sodexo management to cover the cost of the meal,” Reed said. “If this behavior continues a second time, the Dean of Students will be notified.”
Replying to a Lee Clarion request for comment, Dean of Students Alan McClung said in an email that his office is in the process of drafting a policy detailing the consequences for those who choose to forego paying for their meal.
These students might think that neglecting to pay for a meal, or even a trip to the Dean of Student’s office, is relatively harmless. But according to Reed, students not swiping their meal cards could easily result in Sodexo's raising the prices of meal plans for all students to compensate for lost funds.
Reed noted that students sneaking into the dining halls not only affects Sodexo and the university, but also the students who are actually paying for meal plans.
“It unfortunately affects Sodexo, the university and ultimately the parents that are working hard to provide their student with a great opportunity here at Lee,” Reed said. “As you know, student meal plan prices go up when we are not able to account for the cost of our meals based on meal swipes. This takes the money out of the hands of those parents, sacrificing much to provide their student with a Lee experience.”
Additional information on the cost of student meal plans can be found here.
Despite Sodexo's stated aim to serve and provide students with the best food service, the fact remains that it is a private business that must make the right choices when it comes to finances.
“I imagine why [Sodexo] would raise the prices,” Anderson said in reaction to the possible consequences. “I can’t really be mad at them for that. You know people are eating more food and aren’t paying for it, so something has to happen.”
Anderson also said she believes the students sneaking into the dining hall are probably not thinking about how it can affect the university, Sodexo and ultimately themselves.
“I think if people were aware that [sneaking in] frequently is what would cost them more money, it would definitely affect whether or not they would be doing it,” Anderson said. “But I think it’s just something that people really don’t think about.”
Reed hopes that making students aware of the impact of their actions will prompt them to stop taking advantage of the system.
“Students know what is right; they’ve read it in their handbook,” Reed said. “We believe students are going to make the right choices and do what is best for all of those involved.”