Tufts Dining to expand Hodgdon combo offerings, better-publicize options in response to Senate resolution

Dining Staff Linda Furgala swipes in a student for dinner in Carmichael on March 28, 2017. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily

Tufts Dining has chosen not to change pricing for items at Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run, as suggested by a Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate resolution last semester, though it has opted to expand “meal deals” at Hodgdon, according to Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos.

The resolution, sponsored by Senator Arden Fereshetian, a junior, passed unanimously at a senate meeting on Dec. 11, 2016It called for Tufts to allow unused meal swipes to carry over from the fall to the spring semester, to round meal swipe allotments at Hodgdon to a whole number — for example, changing the $9.67 lunch swipe to $10 — and to round food prices to 25-cent increments. The resolution also suggested meal deals at each Hodgdon station and greater transparency on meal plan prices.

The resolution was a culmination of Fereshetian’s research into Tufts Dining’s options. In particular, he looked into how meals are priced and what meal plans are available for students.

“This past summer, as my initiative on Senate, I made it my plan to examine how dining is conducted at Tufts, and see where it can be improved both for students and for Dining Services,” Fereshetian said. “My research, in addition to one or two impromptu meetings with Patti Klos, led me to develop a list of suggestions that I wanted to propose to Dining [Services].”

The meetings between Klos and Fereshetian resulted in an agreement to apply the concept of “meal deals” to each station at Hodgdon — a concept currently present at certain Hodgdon stations. These meal deals would allow multiple food items such as a main entree, a side and a drink  to equate to a full meal swipe, according to Klos and Fereshetian. This would decrease students’ need to calculate how best to use their entire meal swipe, they explained.

“One thing that my conversation with the TCU Senate brought to light [is that] we’ve always intended to have a meal deal at every platform but we’ve had turnover with staff and managers and we’ve changed concepts,” Klos said. “In that process, we’ve neglected to make sure that there was a meal deal at every platform, and so that was an important oversight that they brought to our attention.”

Klos and Fereshetian were also able to find common ground on better informing students of their options by having clearer signage for meal plans and more apparent pricing and labeling in Hodgdon, they said.

“[Meal plan options] will also come with little descriptions, so people can make a better estimate of what to go with,” Fereshetian said.

Some of the Senate’s proposed changes, however, are not likely to be forthcoming, according to Klos. In particular, she said that unused meal swipes will not roll over between the fall and spring semesters.

“That [meal swipe rollover] is not going to happen,” Klos said. “There may be a few schools that do that from fall to spring, but we have costs that have to be covered, and we’re doing our best to keep those increases to a bare minimum, and so that’s not something we’re going to do.”

Rather, Klos and Fereshetian chose to make the deadlines to cancel or alter meal plans clearer on the Tufts Dining website, so that students can avoid ending up with extra meals at the end of the semester.

In addition, Tufts Dining will not alter the prices of items at Hodgdon so that they fall in 25-cent increments. She explained that such a system could end up overcharging students, and that the additional meal deals agreed upon by Fereshetian and Klos will more effectively allow students to use the value of their meal swipes.

Tufts Dining discussed offering a new meal plan worth 120 meals per semester but ultimately chose not to implement it, according to Klos. Instead, she said that students should purchase a plan with fewer swipes and purchase additional meal swipes in blocks of 10 toward the end of the semester. Klos and Fereshetian plan to work towards advertising these offerings more widely.

“[It] becomes too confusing when there are too many [meal plans], but what we’re trying to do is a better job of explaining to you how you can piece together what you are looking for,” Klos said.

Also, Klos found the suggestion of increased transparency on the basis of meal plan and food item pricing to be an unclear proposal. She said that, per university policies, Tufts Dining will not discuss staff salaries and supplier contracts, but it is willing to discuss student needs.

“If you want a breakdown of a financial statement, that’s not likely to be forthcoming and not what the university typically does,” Klos said.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include additional changes that Senator Arden Fereshetian and Tufts Dining plan to make. In addition, its headline has been updated to reflect these newdetails.