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About 200 angry Dartmouth students crowded into Tindle Lounge in the college's Thayer Dining Hall Friday night to protest a proposal that would require all students to spend at least $800 per term in dining halls beginning in June.
Dartmouth Dining Services (DDS) had invited 22 students to attend a discussion with Associate Director of Dining Services Tucker Rossiter, but publicity via e-mail prompted officials to move the forum to the Tindle Lounge in anticipation of the large crowd.
Speaking before a hostile crowd, Rossiter said DDS, which is financially independent from the college, anticipates losing $600,000 this year. He said a revamped meal plan is necessary for DDS to break even without cutting services.
Rossiter said the current "punch" meal-plan option will be abandoned in favor of a mandatory declining balance account, since very few students currently choose the "punch" option. Although the specifics of the plan have not been finalized, Rossiter said special consideration will be made for people who live off-campus.
Rossiter denied reports in The Dartmouth that the required amount for the new meal-plan will be $800. Amid protests from the crowd, Rossiter admitted that he had "talked $795," although the final figure will not be decided for two to three weeks.
Rossiter said the average student currently spends $623 per term to dine on campus, and only 200 to 400 students currently spend more than $800. Rossiter said the Courtyard Cafe in the Hopkins Center is the only DDS establishment that turns a profit.
This information prompted members of the audience to call for the closure of establishments such as the snack bars at the Dartmouth Skiway, Hanover Country Club and in the East Wheelock Cluster. But Rossiter urged students not to be quick to condemn establishments that he said perform an important function for other students.
"You say 'close it,'" he said. "But you're only looking at what you individually want."
Sophomore Jennifer Gagne told the crowd that she contacted friends at three New England schools yesterday to ask about their meal plans.
Gagne said the schools' dining services are all run by private corporations and cost students between $1,200 and $1,800 per year. Gagne said the proposed $800 per-term charge would amount to a $2,400 meal plan charge per year.
Rossiter answered that "contract services tend to be faceless, they tend not to show any care for their help." He said hiring franchises means money goes to a company rather than to a locally-run operation.
Junior Leann Kellogg said that if students are required to give money to DDS, they should be allowed to see DDS's budget. Rossiter said students will be able to see the budget.
Student Assembly presidential candidate Unai Montes-Irueste, a junior, said it was clear to him that Rossiter's "hands are tied" by someone in the administration, making it difficult for him to reach any sort of concessions with students.
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