By Molly Meisels, Editor in Chief
On November 15th, Yeshiva University’s Dean of Students, Dr. Chaim Nissel, sent an email to the undergraduate student body with the subject line, “Still confused by the new meal plan?” His email was sent out following a boost in student advocacy regarding the 2019 – 2020 meal plan changes. In an email to the student body, YU Dining Services claimed that the new meal plan, which follows a “YU Dining Club” model “gives students the greatest degree of convenience, accessibility, and money management on campus.” However, students have found that their dining funds under the new plan are insufficient to cover a semester’s worth of meals. Mili Chizhik, a sophomore at Stern College for Women, who has been on the forefront of protesting the new meal plan, has spent the last few months organizing students to speak up to the administration about their discontent.
Her efforts began on September 15th, when she posted a questionnaire on Facebook to gauge students’ opinions of the meal plan. “For those of you who oppose this semester’s meal plan, please sign this. I am trying to compose an email to the administration to show how the meal plan is leaving us with less money, but the email will have a stronger impact if I have a strong following so please please please sign it!” wrote Chizhik. The questionnaire gained 315 signatures in a matter of days, and on September 26th, the last day of classes before undergraduate students left for their holiday break, Chizhik sent an email to the administration with the supporting signatures and commentary.
Students submitted comments to Chizhik about their fears of running out of dining funds. “I can’t afford these meals and now have to resort to starving myself or eating snacks in place of actual meals. This is completely unfair and I get really stressed about this and sometimes cry about it…YU has reached such a low point and it is really showing,” said one frustrated sophomore. A SCW junior wrote, “Specifically because YU is a Jewish institution, it should uphold the morals, values, and Halacha that it inculcates in its students. Stealing and trickery are in direct conflict with said morals, values, and halacha. It would be one thing if YU was upfront about its ridiculous prices and policy, but it is downright insulting to mask expropriative policy as beneficial to the student body.”
On November 5th, less than two weeks after students returned from holiday break, Dean Nissel responded to Chizhik regarding collaborative action in discussing the plan with students: “I have received partial answers from food services but then had more questions that needed to be answered. Food services is considering a town hall meeting on each campus to discuss food services, pricing structure and trying to answer all student questions.” After hearing about students’ interest in the town halls, two are scheduled to take place on November 20th during the built-in club hour block on each undergraduate campus: 2:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. on the Beren Campus in Yagoda Commons, and 5:45 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. on the Wilf Campus in the Rubin Shul.
According to Chizhik, the meetings are less like town halls and more like info sessions. “I appreciate that Yeshiva University wants to try and help students gain an understanding of the meal plan but these meetings will not help because there’s nothing that the students don’t understand,” she shared with the YU Observer. “Our money is being taken away from us. It’s as simple as that…The only thing that we can gain from these meetings is the understanding of why they would change the meal plan in such a way that we are being taken advantage of.”
Chizhik will be meeting with Randy Apfelbaum, YU’s Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer, on Tuesday, the day before Dining Services’ public meeting with students. She hopes that she can act as a liaison between the YU administration and the student body, but urges students to attend the meetings. “There’s no reason why we should be paying YU anymore than we already are. Students should really go to the meetings to show how important it is to change the meal plan,” she said. “I’m planning on going to both meetings.”