Students oppose meal swipe policy at Cook Café
The Cook Café devised a meal swipe policy this semester to counter the 4,500 students moving through the Cook Campus Center each week at dinnertime.
But angry students have responded with a resolution and a petition to demand a reversal of the policy, which they say costs students money and convinience.
According to the petition, titled “Revise the Meal Swipe Policy at the Cook Campus Center,” the Café no longer accepts meal swipes after 6 p.m. The decision may affect the eating habits and lifestyles of students, particularly those who live on Cook campus.
Courtney Buchanan, treasurer of the Douglass Governing Council, authored a resolution opposed to the new policy.
“Students would like to get their meal at the Cook Café after their night classes,” said Buchanan, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “Others often attend regular evening meetings at the Cook Café and also want to get their meal there.”
During the semester, the organization reported several complaints concerning the policy change. The Constituent Outreach Committee has a series of suggestion boxes where students in the Douglass Residential College can give their input on campus life.
Afterwards, Buchanan began circulating a petition to collect testimonials and demonstrate the negative impact of this policy change.
“The petition gathered testimonials and showed the administration concrete numbers of students that have been impacted by this policy change,” she said.
Once the petition collects 200 signatures, the council plans to bring the problem to the attention of the Rutgers Dining Services administration and the Cook Campus Center management.
The petition has more than 166 signatures and is growing.
Buchanan also discussed concrete consequences of the meal swipe policy, which primarily involves students who frequent the Cook Campus Center.
The Cook Café provides students convenient food services they can easily adapt to their fast-paced lifestyles, she said. The policy also forces them to decide between having a quick meal at the James Neilson Dining Hall and one of the campus centers.
“The Cook Cafe in the Cook Campus Center offers students a healthy location to purchase food when they do not have the ability to eat a sit-down meal at the nearby Neilson Dining Hall,” she said.
Most Rutgers campus centers offer pre-made sandwiches and salads that are healthier and better quality than other food options, she said.
The issue affects the entire Rutgers community, she said. She urged other student governing councils to consider passing resolutions in solidarity to Cook campus’ situation.
Peter Canavan, president of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, justified the policy change as a response to the excessive number of students gathering at the Cook Café for dinner.
The policy would give more business to Neilson Dining Hall and remove the excessive demand on Cook Café, he said via email.
Canavan, a SEBS senior, also outlined the options left for students who wish to have their meal on Cook Campus.
“I think students will have to either use Neilson Dining Hall more, order out or cook more. Unfortunately, with rumors of The Fresh Grocer closing, most students on Cook do not have access to food stores unless they have a car,” he said.
Nick Emanuel, assistant director of cash operations for Dining Services, said the unavailability of space in the Cook Café justified the change of policy, although the adminstration would be open to suggestions.
The Cook Café has a limited space for food, he said. The University’s few resources cannot properly serve the vast number of customers Monday through Friday until 6 p.m.
Although the most logical option would be to expand and innovate the Cook Café, it is the most expensive alternative, and would cost the school an estimated $1 million.
“The curious aspect of this policy change was the rising number of meal swipes transactions this year,” he said. “Therefore, despite having cut back meal swipes usage, the business has increased.”