University of Wisconsin students gathered at the entrance of Gordon Dining and Event Center to protest the new resident meal plan Tuesday evening.
The plan, announced in December, will require incoming freshman living in the residence halls to deposit a minimum of $1,400 into their WisCard account over the course of the year. The plan will be billed on a quarterly basis with three different amounts, varying on the number of meals per week.
Since the announcement, the plan has received many complaints, many of which culminated in the protest Tuesday evening. UW sophomore Rena Newman co-authored the petition against the decision because they believe the meal plan should be repealed.
“We are here tonight to demand that the university eliminate University Housing’s new discriminatory meal plan,” Newman said. “I really hope the administration gets the message, a lot of people are pissed about this meal plan.”
The main concern for students in attendance that was low-income students cannot afford to put $1,400 on their WisCard per year. Additionally, students with dietary restrictions — for religious reasons, allergies and intolerances — will be at a severe disadvantage.
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Newman also had concerns regarding how students were informed of the decision.
“We didn’t find out about this policy through transparency. We found out through a news story after the policy had already been implemented,” Newman said. “We weren’t even part of the decision.”
To begin, the protesters marched through Gordon and chanted “I can’t eat,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, this meal plan has got to go.”
Students should no longer be “submissive” to the university and allow them to exploit students and their money, UW senior Tyriek Mack said.
“We’re not even just talking about our dollars, we’re talking about our families dollars, single parent’s dollars, parents who don’t have jobs,” Mack said. “We’re talking about a whole system that disenfranchises people of color.”
New university dining policy faces criticism from students, alumniUniversity of Wisconsin students began a petition Monday against the recently announced meal plan requirement for students living in residence Read…
Many students then spoke about their opinion on the decision, highlighting low-income students and students who pay for college themselves.
While protesters discussed having to pay out-of-pocket, UW housing spokesperson Brendon Dybdahl said this plan will actually make it easier to use financial aid to pay for dining. He also commented on how UW Housing dealt with the protest.
“We became aware of the planned protest several days ago, so we wanted to be prepared for it.” Dybdahl said. “The students are certainly welcome to have their opinions and speak their mind on it. The campus guidelines only say that students can’t disrupt business on campus.”
The protest then turned more physical, as the protesters linked arms in front of the serving area. Additionally, protesters began scattering food trays on the ground while continuing to chant.
This caught the attention of one bystander, who attempted to tell the protesters to stop throwing trays, because Gordon employees are not the people to target. He said he believed it is the administration that should be punished.
But protesters didn’t change their behavior after comments from this student.
Following the protest, the students participating left Gordon for a meeting to discuss the next steps to maintain solidarity on the issue.
“Students were not consulted about the decision that will impact thousands of Badgers past, present and future,” Newman said.