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Op-Ed: Why Freshmen Need a Meal Plan More Than Ever


Photo by Annie Luo / The Daily Pennsylvanian 

The latest announcement that incoming freshmen will be required to have a meal plan has sparked controversy among students. In fact, "Why am I still required to have a meal plan?" is one of the top questions on the Penn Dining FAQ page. Some speculate that Penn just wants to rake in the money, but in reality, that couldn't be farther from the truth. 

Thinking back to my freshman year, some of my most treasured moments were choking on food in Hill, Kings Court, and Commons. Forcing Penn freshmen to get to-go cafeteria food will ensure that the incoming class of freshmen shares that same experience, thus integrating them into the Penn community. Our school thrives on tradition, if the incoming freshmen hadn't lived the dining experience, could you seriously consider them "Penn students"? I didn't think so.

Additionally, it's important to think about the environmental effects of the meal plan. Without a doubt, the new COVID-19 meal plan, involving hundreds of plastic containers with no sustainable options, shows the truth behind Penn's "commitment to sustainability". Administrators claim that the excessive use of plastic is an act of "transparency" on the part of the University. While we had to slowly learn about Penn's complicated past with the environment over the course of our first week, the meal plan will teach freshmen what's up from day one.

Finally and maybe most importantly, the meal plan will help freshmen get acclimated to campus. The line for the dining hall is going to be soooooo long this year since students have to stand six feet apart, giving students a chance to look around and appreciate the campus. This upcoming semester will largely take place via computers with each student in an individual dorm room, so for many incoming freshmen, waiting in a line near College Hall for a Commons to-go box will be their only chance to take in the campus grounds. 

Rising freshmen, before you scoff at your meal plan, think about all the good it is doing to fully integrate you into the Penn community. Remember that no matter what, Penn is always putting students first and only wants what's best for you. Good luck!