Repeal and Replace: Tufts Dining price gouging

Dear fellow students,

There is something audaciously wrong with Tufts Dining. The organization feels emboldened and entitled to mistreat dining workers and price gouge Tufts students. As dining workers prepare to vote on a strike this week, I wish them luck and hope the university will finally make the right decision. Meanwhile, there are other ethical issues that plague Tufts Dining. Venues on campus take advantage of a captive audience, marking up prices and deflating the value of student dollars. Meal swipes are accepted at limited locations on campus, and restrictions on rollover and refunds entrap students in a system where they can never get their money’s worth. We must repeal the rapacious and entitled structure of Tufts Dining, replacing it with one more in tune with students’ needs, and respectful of the rights of workers and the Tufts community.

Two financial issues facing students using Tufts Dining are the structure of the meal plan system and intentional and pervasive price gouging. Meal plans at Tufts are structured to expire at the end of a semester, with Tufts Dining absorbing any leftover swipes, not refunding the unused money to students or rolling it over to the next semester. According to my calculations, students pay an average of $12.48 per meal swipe. Even five unused swipes are significant. While students can donate swipes to Swipe It Forward, this program suffers from the same limitations regarding rollover, as noted by an editorial in the Daily last month.

Perhaps Tufts Dining needs all the extra money from unused swipes to remain solvent. Outside of the meal swipe program, the equally rapacious practice of price inflation is rampant. Venues on campus offer goods at significant markups. Perhaps this, too, is a hedge against insolvency. For the purpose of this article I studied Hodgdon On-the-Run, and considering a basket of goods from milk to Ragu sauce, I determined the average price markup is 117 percent over those at bfresh, our local grocery. A box of pasta that costs $0.99 at bfresh is $3.79 at Hodgdon (283 percent markup). A Luna is marked up 249 percent. Further, meal swipes that cost $12.48 at market can be redeemed for significantly less depending on the meal period. Breakfast swipes are worth $6.04, which is only $2.78 by purchasing power parity. One of the main food resources on which Tufts students rely thrives on astronomical price gouging.

This is an unjustifiable pattern at Tufts Dining. Perhaps they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Perhaps price gouging and fighting against a fair contract are two sides of the same financial coin. Whatever the excuse, it’s not enough.

The time has come, Tufts Dining. Own up. Don’t hide behind false enthusiasm for the undergraduate experience. Give dining workers a fair contract, and give students fair prices.


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