Meal Plan Open Forum Draws Crowd, Raises Concerns

A hot topic recently among UA Little Rock residents has been the proposed price increase for the 2017-2018 meal plan

Earlier this semester when students learned that the meal plan they are required to purchase when living on campus was going to increase by more than $400 (at the cheapest option available), they began speaking up.

 

Their calls and emails to the UA Little Rock Student Government Association resulted in the first public meeting of its kind between the student body and university officials.

“It was clear when this was announced that students were not happy,” said SGA President Connor Donovan. “I met with Rikki Turner regarding some of the concerns I had been receiving from students and we decided that one of the best ways would be to address their concerns directly.”

Turner, assistant vice provost for student affairs, opened the town-hall-style forum by praising the crowd of over 60 students for making their opinions heard.

“You guys spoke up loudly,” Turner said. “Good for you. It got our attention.

Donovan and Turner were also joined at the podium by Terry Woodard, a representative from Sodexo, UA Little Rock’s food service provider.

They responded to questions from the audience, written statements on index cards and emails that most appropriately fit their level of expertise.

Students were upset over the lack of transparency coming from the top regarding the price increase of the meal plans. They also didn’t like that the $1,000 Dining Dollars meal plan option, a favorite among the crowd, would not be returning as an option for the upcoming academic year.

“The $1,000 dining plan will not come back,” Turner announced to shocked students. “The reason is that most students are not utilizing the full $1,000 over the span of the semester. Anywhere from $800 to $1,000 is lost at the end of the year that is wasted. That is not an appropriate use of student funds.”

 

The Sodexo brand has taken a hit over recent years as it regards to customer satisfaction at UA Little Rock. From the institutional requirement for residents to have a meal plan to the actual quality of the food, students are clearly distressed.

“Sodexo as a brand on campus is not a positive one,” Donovan recalls after hearing so many concerned students. “The satisfaction has improved a bit over the past year as Sodexo’s contract with the university is set to expire.”

Donovan said that the SGA members would continue to fight on behalf of the students. He is scheduled to meet with Turner’s office next week to talk about issues discussed at the public meeting Thursday and advocate for reduction of the meal plan increases.

“There would be no institution without the students,” Donovan said. “We’re [SGA] here to represent the students and make this the best university possible.”

Contact the SGA at sga@ualr.edu with any more questions or concerns.

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