Note: The copy of this story in the print edition of The Miami Student was published prematurely and with incomplete facts. Corrections follow.

H.O.M.E. office offers five options for returning students

By Megan Zahneis, News Editor

In response to student feedback and a petition circulated by Associated Student Government (ASG), Miami’s office of Housing Options, Meals and Events (H.O.M.E.) has issued changes to its meal plan offerings for the 2016-17 academic year.

In February, university administration announced changes to its meal plan system for current and incoming first-year students. The revisions were aimed at alleviating concerns raised by students and parents, specifically regarding the $1,625 program assessment fee built into the current Diplomat plan.

The new plan called for a combination of buffet “swipes” and a declining balance to be used at a la carte locations and would revoke the current student discount  — a 30 percent markdown at a la carte locations and a 50 percent payment at buffet locations.

An ASG petition protesting these revisions garnered over 2,700 signatures in a four-day span and led to discussions between ASG and the H.O.M.E. office on how to ameliorate the situation.

“Continued conversation with ASG has led to the addition of two more levels of Diplomat Premium for returning students,” Brian Woodruff, director of the H.O.M.E. office, wrote in an email.

There will now be three premium Diplomat levels for returning students as well as Diplomat Standard and Minimum options.

For returning on-campus students, Diplomat Premium A features $3,000 in declining balance dollars to spend at any dining location at a cost of $2,850. Diplomat Premium B offers $2,500 in dining dollars for $2,500, and Premium C subscribers will receive $1,750 in dining dollars for $2,000.

“It was necessary for us to add a small ‘fee’ to the lowest [Premium C] level, in order to allow that lower deposit amount,” Woodruff explained. The so-called fee, he said, will go toward maintaining operations.

“The greatest value will remain in the levels that include buffet meals. However, these new lower[-priced] options have been added to help address concern that the original premium level for returning students was too high,” Woodruff said.

The returning Diplomat Standard offers 262 buffet meals (at $7.06 each) and $500 in declining balance credit for $2,350, and Diplomat Minimum offers 225 buffet meals (at $7.78 each) and $100 in declining dollars for $1,850.  The Standard and Minimum plans also come with five guest buffet meals.

For incoming students, Diplomat Premium will offer unlimited buffet meals (at a $6.44 value) and $800 in declining balance dollars for a total of $2,925. Diplomat Standard is listed as providing 262 buffet meals (at $7.25 each) and $500 declining balance credit for $2,400, and Diplomat Minimum as 225 buffet meals (at $8 each) and $100 in declining balance for $1,900.

All incoming student plans also come with five guest meals.

The initial meal plan controversy came after representatives from the H.O.M.E. office and ASG met in the fall to discuss potential meal plan changes, which led to the release of the new plan in February.

However, ASG Secretary for On-Campus Affairs Sammi Podolyan noted, she and her colleagues were not made aware of these changes prior to their release to the student body.

“We hadn’t even heard much talk about buffet swipes until January, when Brian Woodruff presented his plan,” Podolyan told The Miami Student in early April. “Once I got a hold of it, it was already implemented on the H.O.M.E. office webpage, and students were already signing up.”

Podolyan said that she and her team have been in frequent contact with Vice President of Auxiliary Services Kim Kinsel in the past weeks to devise a suitable solution, and are satisfied with the results.

“We are very happy with all the work the administration has put in these past two weeks to address student concerns,” Podolyan wrote in an email. “The conversation on meal plan is not over; we will be working with a small committee to get student feedback on the new plan and work to fix any issues that come up, as well as evaluate ways to improve the meal plan for the future.”

“We really do. We continue conversations,” Interim Director of Dining Services Jon Brubacher said in early April. “It’s not like we’re turning a blind eye to any of these comments. We really are taking everything into conversation. We’re always soliciting [feedback].”

Woodruff said his team is working to update Miami’s website and MyCard system to reflect the changes and will soon notify all students who had already signed up for a meal plan for 2016-17 to inform them of the new options.