DDS finalizes changes to SmartChoice plans

by Nathan Yeo | 7/4/11 10:00pm

In response to student feedback, the College has modified its controversial SmartChoice dining plan to allow for greater flexibility in meal choices, according to Director of Dartmouth Dining Services David Newlove. The final SmartChoice plan which offers new pricing options will be implemented for Fall term, according to Associate Dean for Campus Life April Thompson.

The revised plan will retain the "hybrid" aspect of the original, which allowed students to choose a set number of all-you-can-eat meals per week at the Class of 1953 Commons, while continuing to use their declining balance account at the Courtyard, Collis and Novack Cafes, The Dartmouth previously reported.

The "meal exchange" option in the revised SmartChoice plan will allow students to use DBA to pay for a dollar equivalent of a meal, The Dartmouth previously reported.

In addition, students will be able to purchase a rotating selection of prepared meals at Collis or Courtyard Cafe similar to current specials, Thompson said.

Under the final plan, the SmartChoice option of 10 meals per week will decrease to five meals per week with an increased DBA allowance of $875. This proposed plan would cost a total of $1,440 per term, The Dartmouth previously reported.

For students who reside off-campus, DDS will offer a "DBA-only" plan for $875. Off-campus students and those who have used all of their allotted weekly meals can dine at '53 Commons by paying a set door price, according to Thompson.

The SmartChoice options of 20 and 14 meals per week will not change from the original plan announced in March, according to Newlove. These plans will have $75 and $125 worth of DBA, respectively, according to the DDS website. The 20-meal plan will cost $1,658, while the 14-meal plan will cost $1,575.

All of the meal plans will be covered by financial aid for those students who qualify, The Dartmouth previously reported.

Students will be able to use meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as late night dining at Collis, according to Newlove.

Administrators sought extensive feedback from students as they formulated the new plans, according to Thompson.

"Students gave a lot of feedback through one-on-one meetings, protests and letters to the editor [of The Dartmouth]," she said. "The main thing that we were hearing from students is that they wanted more flexibility in their dining plan. They wanted to be able to use either a meal swipe or their DBA in multiple venues."

DDS administrators considered a wide range of options when making the changes, given the variety of student suggestions, Newlove said. Thompson said that they worked to "develop a plan that offered the greatest amount of flexibility for the greatest number of students."

Feedback was collected from student forums, office-hour meetings and a BlitzMail account called "DDS Feedback" to evaluate student preferences, according to Thompson. The changes will give students particularly those with smaller meal plans multiple options for how they can buy their meals and use their meal plan money, she said.

The College will continue to solicit student feedback through the Blitz account and comment cards, and may use the information to further adjust SmartChoice in the future, according to Thompson.

"We really need to know what students are feeling with the new plan so we can make sure they have the best dining experience possible," she said.

Further information will be distributed during the summer, and students will be able to make changes to their dining plans online via Banner Student, according to Thompson.

Several students interviewed by The Dartmouth said they thought the announced changes were an improvement but are not substantial.

"I think they are starting to realize that they can't force students to eat in a way they aren't used to eating," Torrey Barret '13 said. "But I still think that they really need to think about how and when students are using DDS. I am a little skeptical still that this plan fits how students really eat and spend money."

Barrett said she thinks meals should not expire at the end of each week and that the plans should offer more DBA.

"I personally think it would be really smart to make the meals roll over so if students are really stressed about midterms, they can eat when they need and then not worry about wasting money or forcing themselves to go to DDS when they don't need to be eating," she said.

Chris Johnson '13 said the new plan would unfairly force students who eat less to pay more.