The University of Wisconsin Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration announced Wednesday the Associated Students of Madison and the Division of University Housing will be creating a shared governance committee of faculty, students and staff.
The announcement comes after intense student protest and scrutiny related to the new dining plan revealed last year. Per the policy, students living in university residence halls will be required to pay $1400 for a year long meal plan.
Many students were unhappy with certain parts of the plan, particularly the lack of student input in its formation. Jeff Novak, director of the Division of University Housing, said the university has heard students’ voices and values their input, and has changed certain parts of the plan in recent months in light of these discussions.
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“Originally, the $1400 minimum deposit on the Wiscard was for one year only — that now is rolled over from year to year,” Novak said. “We’ve also solidified the exemption process for those with dietary and religious needs, and have in fact already exempted one student who will be coming this August.”
Novak also said University Housing has solidified payment procedures for students who choose to break down the meal plan into four $350 installments rather than an initial lump sum.
For students who choose the quarterly installment plan, Novak said the university will pre-load their Wiscards with sufficient funds for the first two quarterly payments before they move in to their residence hall, before the second quarter installment is due.
Despite these changes, Novak said it is important to remember the new dining plan is only is a pilot program. The university will review the viability of the plan after two years, and the shared governance committee will be an important part of those discussions.
“We’re calling it a pilot, and we’ll spend time this year and next year reviewing it and making sure that the plan is working, is flexible and accommodates both student needs and our ability to continue to run the highest-quality dining program on campus,” Novak said.
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Novak said he hopes the conversations revolving around the meal plan are only a starting point for the shared governance committee’s discussions. He anticipates the committee will work to provide the “highest quality” living and dining experience for UW students on many fronts, beyond discussions about the new dining plan.
While this is the first shared governance committee between ASM and University Housing, Novak said “models of advisory” between the students and the division have existed for years — primarily in the form of residence hall advisory committees, which include student representation. While he hopes the new shared governance committee will continue to solidify existing discussions between these advisory committees and the division, he said discussions about the new dining plan revealed the need for greater representation.
“With this new dining plan, I think it brought to light the opportunity to engage greater input from the larger student body that does not live on campus, and from faculty and staff, to make sure that we’re providing the best living experience and dining experience for all residents and customers,” Novak said.
The committee will accomplish this by evaluating how University Housing is meeting the needs of each constituent base the committee members represent on campus, Novak said. There will be eight committee members, including five students and one representative each from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, the Division of University Housing and the the Dean of Students Office.
In a statement Wednesday, ASM expressed their support for the plan. The statement said ASM has pushed for a shared governance committee in the past, and is “proud” to see its formation. In an email to The Badger Herald Thursday, ASM Shared Governance Campaign Director Jacqueline Beaulieu said many students have been involved in the formation of the committee, including students not directly involved with ASM.
“The new committee will allow for better representation of the student body, and ensure student voice in future policy decisions,” the statement said. “ASM affirms that students have a right to take part in University Housing and Dining decisions, considering their substantial role in student life. The new committee will open lines of communication between students and administration to better serve student needs and review major financial decisions within University Housing and Dining.”
The committee members are still being finalized, but Novak expects the committee to begin meeting in the coming weeks.
March 8, 6:24 p.m.: This post has been updated to include statements from ASM Shared Governance Campaign Director Jacqueline Beaulieu.