Student launches petition for off-campus dining plan

Catherine Marfin

A UT student launched a petition last week proposing to extend the “Dine In Dollars” meal plan to students living off campus.

Started as an assignment for her government class, electrical and computer engineering junior Makeila Sorensen created a petition on in an attempt to change the current Dine In Dollars system, which is only offered to students with on-campus housing contracts. The petition has been active since Nov. 17 and has collected more than 500 online signatures to date. If the petition reaches 5,000 signatures, Sorensen plans to send the petition to UT President Gregory Fenves.

“As a college student and a commuter, I have serious time and budget constraints,” Sorensen said. “Not only would a meal plan save me a lot of time and money, but I would also be able to eat healthier.”

Of the 52,000 students at UT, 44,600 of them live off campus without access to the Dine In Dollars meal plan, according to Director of Food Service Rene Rodriguez.

All students have accessibility to Bevo Bucks, however, which can be used as another payment option at any dining hall and at over 130 places on and near campus. Students without Dine In Dollars pay as much as $3 more for each meal in the dining halls. Sorensen said she believes this price increase causes off-campus students to turn to unhealthy options, such as fast food or vending machine snacks.

“Bevo Bucks are technically offered as a meal plan for everyone,” geography freshman Sunnie Lee said. “I signed the petition because Bevo Bucks just encourage unhealthy choices.”

According to Rodriguez, the current Bevo Bucks system is meant to serve as a more flexible meal plan for off-campus students.

“Bevo Bucks aren’t like Dine In Dollars, which can only be used in a few places for meals,” Rodriguez said. “They have a lot of neat benefits. We want students to stay as customers, which is why we create these multiple options.”

Sorensen said she plans on presenting the issue to University officials if the petition does not spur enough action on its own.

“If no action is taken after sending the petition to Fenves, I will attempt to contact higher officials directly and schedule a meeting with them,” Sorensen said. “I hope that the higher officials will take the petition into serious consideration and that we will be able to work together to reach a resolution.”