On September 5, 2017 the Lumberjack ran a story about how students who use campus meal plans lose their J-points at the end of the year (“Students’ J-point money washed away”). Students who use meal plans receive about half the value of their plan in j-points, the other half goes toward non-food costs for HSU Dining Services. In this way, j-points are merely a representation of food that the student will consume. By repossessing j-points at the year’s end, the University is reducing the amount of food that a student can buy in the future. Students who don’t have the luxury of having the funds to purchase more j-points mid-semester must be very conscious of their balances, since an early depletion means no more food and a late depletion means they could have had more food. Either way, it’s another stress factor added to student life.
Then there’s the fact that at the J and the Depot, students using J-points get a discount on the food there, 67% and 25%, respectively. HSU Dining Services gives students this incentive to purchase a meal plan if they aren’t already required to do so by their on-campus housing situation. Incentives are great, but they’re rarely for purely humanitarian reasons (like making sure students stay fed). In our case, the heavily discounted food appeals to our need to preserve our financial aid, loan money, paychecks and college funds and encourages us to ignore the clause that requires us to forfeit unused money at the end of the year. Those of us new to the school aren’t yet privy to the information that allows us to know how much money we need for food for a semester or a year. As was pointed out in the Lumberjack, $82,513 worth of j-points were repossessed by HSU last year. That’s $82,513 of uneaten food that HSU forces students to pay for.
This aspect of our meal plan system is unacceptable. There’s no reason, beyond Ron’s need to inflate the revenues of HSU’s dining service, to make j-point forfeiture a stipulation of the meal plan contract. Students have enough to worry about when they resettle in Humboldt after summer break or settle here for the first time, so many choose the convenience of on-campus housing over the stress of finding housing in Arcata, Eureka, McKinleyville, etc. We expect that the services provided by the University will be on fair terms; the HSU seal lulls us into a false sense of security over what we are agreeing to. The terms aren’t negotiable, but if you don’t like them, you don’t have to buy meal plans or on-campus housing. Just go hungry and homeless.