First-year Beyoncé Retana says she’s a picky eater.
It’s one of the reasons why she doesn’t go to the dining hall as often as her peers. As a dorm resident, she is required to buy a Slug Points meal plan from the university. With a Slug Point being equivalent to a dollar, dorm residents pay a minimum of nearly $1,450 a quarter in meal credits, even if they only need half as much to make it through the quarter.
Come finals week of fall quarter, she had over 1,000 Slug Points remaining.
“It was so wasteful for me because I had so much money left over,” Retana said.
Keep in mind, these were 1,000 Slug Points that she’s never going to use. $1,000 that she would set to lose because of the excess meal credits that the university forced her to buy. She’s just one of many students projected to lose hundreds of dollars because of the broken system that is Slug Points.
Starting summer 2022, UC Santa Cruz implemented a new Slug Points meal plan system, offering students three different plans of finite meal credits to use throughout the quarter.
When students first bought their meal plans, they were told there would be no roll-over arrangement, with points expiring at the end of the quarter. As many realized their Slug Points were about to expire during finals week, many began to panic-buy perishable goods like candy, energy drinks, and ramen in bulk, leading on-campus cafes and markets to go out of stock.
In a last-minute decision, UCSC sent an email to on-campus students on Dec. 9, the last day of finals week, that leftover Slug Points would carry over to winter quarter and remain available until the end of the academic year on June 16.
Despite the change, the same email also noted that this was a “one-time exception for fall quarter 2022 points only,” and that any unused Slug Points in the winter and spring quarter meal plan will expire at the end of their respective quarters.
But temporary solutions like these are nothing more than a Band-Aid.
The current Slug Points system is broken and needs to be fixed. Why force a student to pay a minimum of $1,400 a quarter for food and then punish them if they only choose to use $1,000?
Slug Points need real solutions that would relieve the burden on students’ wallets. Luckily, we have them.
First, make the roll over of surplus Slug Points from quarter to quarter permanent. This would ensure that students are food secure and allow them to access the credits that they are entitled to long-term. The decision to revoke that message for the winter quarter is selfish and puts profit over the needs of students.
Second, expand the Slug Points tiers to include lower tier options of meal plans for on-campus students to make dining at UCSC more inclusive and affordable for students who do not go to on-campus dining often.
To address the potential problem of people running out of Slug Points, UCSC dining can just continue its current system of Slug Points Bonus, which have the same dollar per point equivalent but are purchasable on demand in convenient increments of $50, $100, or $500.
Third, make the purchase of spring meal plans for on-campus students optional. Beyoncé Retana currently has 2,600 Slug Points, including her remaining fall Slug Points. That will be more than enough to get her through winter and spring quarter, making it unnecessary for her to spend another $1,450 on a meal plan.
“It would have been beneficial for me at least to be able to use those Slug Points to pay off my debt,” Retana said.
But that’s not the case now, and she’s required to spend the rest of it on food she won’t eat for the rest of the year.
The current Slug Points system is not prioritizing the interests and health of UCSC students.
Most of the time, the university doesn’t guarantee basic needs for many of its students, but today’s dorm residents are having their needs met but in deliberate excess so the university can keep their money knowing many people won’t cash in on that excess.
As we approach the end of the academic year, UCSC dining ought to reevaluate the system and make adjustments for the next. But changes coming in fall 2023 do not help the students who are currently spending thousands of dollars that they can’t afford to waste.
The situation at hand boils down to two choices for the university: prioritize maximizing profits by taking away student’s rightfully paid meal credits and forcing them to buy additional Slug Points that they will never use, or better support the students that make up its institution by allowing them to keep the meal credits they’re entitled to.
We demand the university pick the latter, and choose its students.