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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, March 3, 2024

Revised meal swipe rules feed into students’ frustration

Tufts Dining reverts to pre COVID-19 long-standing meal swipe policy

Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center is pictured on May 10.

Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center is pictured on May 10.

For many Tufts students, the meal plan is a non-negotiable aspect of campus life. Coinciding with the two-year undergraduate residency requirement, both first years and sophomores are mandated to be on a meal plan. In particular, freshmen must be on the 400-swipe plan (dubbed the “Premium Plan”), while sophomores must pay for a minimum of 160 swipes per semester. However, recent revisions to the meal swipe program seem to be cooking up a storm among the student body, with many left hungry for more opportunities to get their meals.

According to the Tufts Dining official website, a maximum of one swipe per meal period can be used at a Tufts retail location that accepts meal swipe equivalency. This does not apply to the two dining halls on campus, where multiple swipes may still be used within a single meal period. This is a shift from last semester’s maximum of two meal swipes per period at any dining location. Now, for students opting to eat at fan-favorite locations such as Kindlevan Café and Hodgdon Food-On-the-Run, double swiping for extra food is no longer a possibility.

Patti Klos, Tufts director of dining and business services, explained the rationale behind the change in an email to the Daily.

“The current swipe policy had been in place for many years and was temporarily lifted during Covid,” Klos wrote. “So, to be clear, we have not changed our policy; we have reverted to our long-standing policy after a brief accommodation that was made due to Covid. Although Covid hasn’t completely left, we need to return to our former practice in order to manage-inventory and production capacity of these cafes, and to make access more equitable for all.”

While Klos says the goal behind the reinstated meal swipe policy is to help retail locations and production run more smoothly, many students have expressed concerns regarding the limitations. For the Class of 2027, these parameters could impact students’ ability to spend all their swipes in the mandated Premium Plan — which runs students over $4,000.

Carmen Bechtel, a sophomore who was able to finish the 400-swipe Premium Plan in her first year, believes that double swiping is a must in terms of maxing out the plan. 

“I generally would just double swipe in Kindlevan for breakfast. I’d go to a dining hall and Hodge to get snacks [and] lunch, and then either go to both dining halls or get more Hodge for dinner as well,” Bechtel said.

Asked if she believes it is possible to finish the Premium Plan under the reintroduced meal swipe policy, her response was less than optimistic.

“I definitely wouldn’t be able to do that. I would go use two meal swipes at Kindlevan all the time, because [otherwise] you’re choosing between a smoothie or a panini,” Bechtel said.

The new maximum of one swipe per meal period can be limiting for those who want to purchase larger amounts at these retail locations. Bechtel suspects that this could make Tufts’ two dining halls a more favorable choice among students. She expressed concern regarding the potential crowding that could accumulate in the dining halls due to the updated meal swipe policy.

“I think if everyone had to go to a dining hall for their main meal, it would just get way too congested. And you’re limiting the full meal potential at those retail stores,” Bechtel said.

Senior Amogh Morje expressed a similar sentiment regarding the mandated premium plan for first-years.

“Underclassmen can’t hope to finish 400 meal swipes, especially with only one per period,” Morje said.

Morje added that putting restrictions on the way people can spend meal swipes ​​will reduce dining flexibility, therefore decreasing students’ ability to successfully use all of them.

In addition to this reinstated policy, a modified “guest swipe” policy was also introduced for Tufts meal plan holders. Students with meal plans now have a limited number of “guest swipes” per semester, with Premium Plan holders granted eight per semester. For some students, including Morje, swiping in friends is a considerable aspect of social life.

While Morje believes that the 400-swipe plan is excessive, he was able to utilize his extra swipes on his friends throughout previous semesters. This can also be conducive for bonding between underclassmen and upperclassmen.

“I think [the premium meal plan is] a little overkill,” Morje said. “That being said, though, I think the way historically it’s been balanced out is the fact that [underclassmen in] a lot of clubs … will make friends with upperclassmen.” Morje added that some of his closest friends are people he swiped in at Dewick.

However, with the limited amount of guest swipes per meal plan holder, upperclassmen will no longer be able to rely on their younger peers; instead, they will have to consider purchasing a plan of their own. But for some upperclassmen, the cost is hard to justify.

As of Sept. 2023, the cost of a premium meal plan is $4,019 for a total of 400 swipes and $75 JumboCash, averaging to approximately $9.86 per meal.

However, students on lower meal plans will find themselves spending more per swipe. For example, the 40 swipe meal plan is $699, meaning that one swipe averages to $17.48.

“It’s very clear that it’s not worth buying the meal plan,” Morje said. “You’re not saving that much money on a [lower] meal plan. And if you don’t think you can finish it, then it’s just better to pay by [the] meal.”

Although the fall semester has just begun, some Tufts students are already expressing their frustration with an online petition to “double swipe at Hodge again.” It remains to be seen whether or not this petition will amount to any future changes.