When Ritu Bapat and her four suitemates at Brown missed dinner last week, they went to the Ivy Room, an on-campus restaurant, at about 12:30 a.m.
While there, they had the choice between purchasing an omelet, a smoothie, falafel or burgers and fries, all of which they could pay for in exchange for the dinner they missed.
"It's very flexible," says Bapat of Brown's policy that allows students to acquire credit at late-night campus restaurants for missed meals.
Meanwhile, students who miss meals at Harvard are not reimbursed. Although they always have the option to go to Loker and use some of their $50 in Board Plus money, most opt to dine at local restaurants and pay for it out of their own pockets.
Although it is rare to find a gourmet meal at any college, dining options vary greatly at other schools. Meal plans differ in their cost, food quality and flexibility. Some plans offer compensation when meals are missed; others allow students to eat at local restaurants.
A Crimson survey of students and administrators at Brown, Princeton, Stanford and Yale, four schools across the nation with similar-sized student bodies, shows that although Harvard Dining Services (HDS) has made strides in recent years in improving campus cuisine, it is still lacking in much of the flexibility that other college meal plans provide.
Free to Decide
At Harvard, students have two choices for their meal plan: take it or leave it. Those who choose to eat in house dining halls must pay for 21 meals per week.
Such is not the case at other colleges. Of the four schools surveyed, all offer a selection of meal plans that allow students to choose the number of meals per week they wish to purchase.
Stanford, for example, provides three options; students choose between 19, 14 or 12 meal-per-week plans.
According to students at Stanford, most don't opt for the full plan.
"No one gets a 19 meal plan except the athletes," says Shalini Bhargava a first-year at Stanford. "Everyone eats 14 meals per week."
Indeed, reduced meal plans are very popular at schools at which they are offered.
At Yale, a third of upperclass students opt for its 14-meal-per-week plan, according to Allen R. Kenney, Yale's director of food services.
A similar percentage choose to purchase the 14-meal plan at Princeton, according to Stu J. Orefice, Princeton's director of dining services.