By Delaney Smith
Citing concerns about Covid-19, the College has decided for the 2021-2022 school year to remove the Meal Equivalency program, which encouraged students to eat at other locations besides the Atrium at Eickhoff Hall. The removal of Meal Equivalency was meant to reduce the number of students eating at one time, therefore encouraging social distancing and smaller crowds, according to the Executive Director for Auxiliary and Contract Services Karen Roth and as reported by The Signal.
Meal Equivalency was a program that offered unlimited meal swipes at the Atrium at Eickhoff Hall. From 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., students received $8.60 to spend at some of the various restaurants on campus, including the Lion’s Den in the Brower Student Center, Traditions and the Library Cafe.
The removal of the Meal Equivalency program came as a shock to many students. A poll run by The Signal’s Instagram (@tcnjsignal) asked students how they felt about the removal of the Meal Equivalency program and came back with an overwhelmingly negative response. Many students expressed confusion over the decision, considering the other in-person events that are occurring on campus, such as the indoor HDBeenDope concert on Aug. 31 and the Fall Comedy Show featuring Colin Jost on Sept. 17.
“Students are struggling now more than ever to afford tuition and schooling in general,” Kiara Fernandez, a sophomore majoring in secondary English urban education said. “The lines at the Student Center and Eickhoff are always super long so the spread of Covid-19 is just as possible.”
Many freshmen, in particular, were left in the dark about Meal Equivalency, with many showing disappointment that the program was taken away when a cheap meal plan was such a massive selling point for the College.
“I was really looking forward to it as an incoming freshman since I heard so much about it during the tours,” Vinisha Patel, a freshman biology major, said. “Eick is overcrowded during peak times anyways and we are resuming normal programming like concerts.”
“I mean, Eick is already overcrowded at many points in the day. I think it’s dumb that they got rid of Meal Equiv,” Shayna Carter, a freshman mechanical engineering major, said.
A common trend among students’ responses was that Eickhoff still had long lines and was still overcrowded. Some students doubted that taking away Meal Equivalency was the only measure that the College could have taken to combat overcrowding with Covid-19.
“TCNJ could’ve expanded the times of meal equivalent from 10 to 3 to give people more time to go instead of everyone having to rush in at 12:20 because Equiv is over in an hour,” Cody Conrad, a senior history and secondary education major, said. “If they didn’t want to do that, they could’ve given points to their students so they can spend it at the Stud.”
The aforementioned Instagram poll showed no responses that supported the loss of Meal Equivalency and the majority of students still seem confused or even angry over the decision to take away the program.
“It was just a very poorly thought out policy,” Conrad said. “For a school that celebrates student voice, they’re very good at just not even asking for our opinions.”