Greater than 500 college students referred to as campus house this summer season, because the Faculty resumed in-person analysis and internships within the Berkshires remained distant. Many of those college students expressed frustration with the Faculty’s method to summer season meal plans, saying that they have been too costly and didn’t present sufficient meals — points that disproportionately affected low-income college students. College students additionally criticized the Faculty for not providing monetary assist for meal plans throughout the summer season, regardless of requiring that college students buy a summer season meal plan to dwell in campus housing.
Summer season board plans operate in a different way from these supplied throughout the educational yr. As an alternative of resetting every week, college students acquired a set variety of meals for the summer season. College students are assigned one in all three plans — 15, 50, or 75 meals — relying on how lengthy they are going to be dwelling on campus, and so they should purchase one other meal block at any level in the event that they run out of meals. The plans are priced at $175, $582, and $873, respectively. Most college students are assigned the 50-block plan.
“We don’t wish to drive college students over the summer season to decide to our conventional educational meal plans,” Director of Eating Companies Temesgen Araya wrote in an e mail to the File. “The associated fee for a plan to reset will exceed our present worth construction and trigger the next monetary dedication for our summer season college students.”
Araya additionally mentioned the plans are designed to present college students flexibility with when and the place they will eat. “Many college students don’t work on campus and have to have the autonomy/flexibility to eat the place is most handy for them,” he wrote.
Some college students, nonetheless, mentioned that paying for a meal plan is an unreasonable monetary burden — particularly provided that having solely 50 meals makes supplementing with meals from elsewhere, or buying one other block, obligatory.
“If I used to be fully counting on the meal plan, it wouldn’t be sufficient,” Petros Markopoulos ’23 advised the File over the summer season. “I imply, do the maths. It’s lower than one meal per day. Nevertheless it has been positive as a result of I’ve been supplementing with grocery purchasing and cooking within the dorm.”
Different challenges arose for college kids with dietary restrictions. Apart from the restricted meal blocks, the eating corridor was not all the time accessible to college students with meals allergy symptoms and different dietary restrictions, based on Sophie Throop ’23. Throop, who’s gluten illiberal, mentioned that they weren’t capable of depend on the eating corridor for meals throughout the summer season.
“The eating corridor doesn’t have quite a lot of reliable gluten-free choices,” Throop mentioned over the summer season. “They steadily neglect to label stuff that clearly has wheat… The meal plan itself hasn’t been sufficient meals for me to reliably feed myself.”
Throop added that it was a monetary burden to pay for the meal plan whereas additionally shopping for meals from different locations. “I can cook dinner my very own meals that I do know I can eat for lots cheaper than [the meal plan],” they mentioned. “Being pressured to buy [the meal plan] has made it harder for me to afford meals that I can cook dinner for myself.”
Nevertheless it was not all the time attainable for college kids to cook dinner for themselves. Markopoulos mentioned that it could possibly be troublesome to get the components essential to cook dinner meals as a result of Cease & Store — the place many college students purchase groceries — is sort of a 40-minute stroll from campus, and plenty of college students should not have automobiles. He identified that whereas public transportation exists and is free, college students could have felt uncomfortable utilizing it as COVID-19 continued to surge.
Yunjin Park ’23 shared each Throop and Markopoulos’s sentiment. She added that meals choices inside strolling distance, akin to eating places on Spring St., are sometimes financially inaccessible. “The meal plan is such a wrestle not solely as a result of [it’s only] 50 meal swipes, or that it’s costly,” she mentioned over the summer season. “The meals round this neighborhood is [also] actually costly. Williamstown will not be an inexpensive place to dwell.”
Park mentioned that the Faculty ought to present some type of monetary help for monetary assist college students dwelling on campus for the summer season. “You don’t immediately turn into wealthy … over the summer season,” she mentioned. “[Your] monetary state of affairs has not modified.”
Ayanna Columbus ’24 agreed and mentioned that college students shouldn’t be required to enroll in a meal plan if monetary assist will not be supplied. “If persons are going to remain on campus, [the College] ought to simply allow them to present meals for themselves — if the meal plan goes to be so costly,” she mentioned.
Director of Monetary Support Ashley Bianchi mentioned that the Faculty usually expects college students who’re dwelling on campus to make use of their summer season wages to pay for meals, since housing is supplied totally free. Nonetheless, she added that the choice to not supply monetary help for summer season board will not be one the monetary support workplace makes. “We really aren’t permitted to award monetary support in the summertime,” she mentioned. “I wouldn’t wish to go the buck to anybody, but it surely’s an institutional determination.”
Federal legal guidelines prohibit the Faculty from awarding government-funded monetary support, akin to federal loans and Pell grants, throughout the summer season and different durations of non-enrollment. As a result of not all college students are eligible to obtain federal funds — worldwide college students and contributors within the Deferred Motion for Childhood Arrivals program are excluded, for instance — the Faculty additionally makes use of these pointers to disburse state and institutional support and make sure that support eligibility is “constant throughout all populations,” based on Bianchi.
However there are a selection of exceptions to this rule. For instance, the Faculty awards institutional grants for making up course deficiencies and to supply medical insurance during times of non-enrollment.
The pandemic has additionally allowed for extra exceptions than in a typical yr. Provided that COVID has made paying jobs harder to return by — and prevented some college students from leaving campus in any respect — the monetary support workplace disbursed $1700 grants from the CARES Act Fund. The CARES Act Fund, which consisted of reduction cash from the federal authorities, financed a collection of direct funds that have been awarded to any monetary support pupil who was enrolled on the Faculty up to now yr. Bianchi additionally mentioned that summer season college students going through sudden monetary hardship can request emergency funds by filling out a crucial wants request, however these usually are not awarded for routine groceries.
Given these exceptions, Bianchi mentioned the coverage of not awarding monetary assist for summer season meal plans may change sooner or later. She mentioned that the Faculty may both forgo the income and soak up the price of offering summer season meals or present institutional monetary support for college kids who display monetary want.
“We’ve made exceptions for different insurance policies,” she mentioned. “It will definitely be a further expense that we’d have to determine … however [it] definitely could possibly be one thing that we may discover ought to the necessity come up.”
Markopoulos mentioned that not offering a extra direct type of monetary assist runs opposite to what he characterised because the Faculty’s extra typical generosity and willingness to assist college students. “I’m shocked that that is the way in which they do it,” he mentioned. “In my expertise, Williams has been tremendous useful… and that is not like that… It appears they may enhance on it and make college students’ lives higher. And the truth that they’re selecting to not is questionable.”