Take Out Container Policy Fails

Quite a few budget cuts have occurred across campus since last semester, but perhaps the least palatable cut came from the dining budget. While most of the dining changes were announced last year, the reusable take-out system was not.Last year, Pomona College created a Food Committee, whose job was ostensibly to come up with and discuss possible changes and adjustments to the dining system in order to make it more cost-effective. Pomona aimed to cut around 400,000 dollars from the dining services budget, and the Food Committee created a survey to gauge student opinion on potential changes suggested by the administration.The survey asked, among other things, which take-out option students would prefer: having a dining services member place food in a take-out container, paying fifty cents per take out container, or prepackaged takeout meals.Reusable containers were not among the choices. Students never had a chance to give opinions on the containers; the decisions to purchase reusable, hard-plastic containers for the dining halls were made over the summer by 5C administrators.It is problematic that the take-out policy students were ultimately saddled with came manus dei, without any student input. While the significance of student opinion may at times be questionable, the general policy is to at least nominally include them in the decision-making process. This is an issue that affects students day-to-day, and students should have at least been part of the discussion.The lack of a coordinated take out policy amongst the 5Cs also presents challenges. First of all, the problem should have and could have been avoided. This is a consortium, and as such, students have access to resources on other campuses. Meal plans from every college are accepted in all of the dining halls. If a Pomona student can expect to swipe into Collins with a Pomona meal plan, then they should expect to take out from Collins with a Pomona meal plan.However, because CMC and Pomona, for example, purchased different take out containers, Pomona students cannot use their reusable take out boxes at CMC. Though technically all meal plans are still accepted across the board, they no longer come with the freedom and flexibility expected of the consortium.Students must now front a surcharge to their meal plan if they choose to take out at another school. It is inexcusable that students should have to pay a fee to use the resources of any of the consortium schools: if fifty cents is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the listed meal price, then should we expect a 10 or 20 percent additional fee to take a class outside our home campus?However, it is most ridiculous that the five colleges were unable to come up with a joint-take-out policy. If we can’t coordinate policies as straightforward (and, in some cases, as small as) plastic boxes, then what about us makes us a consortium? We might as well be five campuses that happen to be next to one another.Administrators at the Budget Forum held on Sep. 14 admitted that the varied take-out containers were a failure of coordinated consensus. But the day-to-day problems that have resulted cannot be brushed off with a sigh and an admission.It is the responsibility of the colleges to fix the problem. The colleges must provide students with take-out containers that can be used at any dining hall, at any of the schools.It is unfortunate that money has already been spent on the containers, but, as is often the case with unilateral decisions, the outcome is an unmitigated failure. It is time for the colleges to reinvest in their relationships with students and with one another as they reformulate an equitable take-out policy that will apply across the 5Cs. And on the bright side, Pomona’s containers won’t take up much space while they biodegrade in a landfill somewhere.

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