Where Did Our Restaurant Money Go?

By Erica Hasten
On March 6, 2012

On February 7 Elana Raskas, Liaison for Food Services of the Student Life Committee, sent an sstud reminding the student body that in the spring semester we would have $100 set aside from our caf card money to spend in the Off Campus Dining Program. Many responded to this issue with satisfaction, while others were legitimately confused as to why our restaurant money did not renew to the full $250 amount that we had last semester. Each semester, students living on campus put $1,500 on their caf cards in order to purchase caf food and other items in the convenience stores. If we had all of our "regular" caf money to spend, then why didn't the same policy apply to our "restaurant" money? Furthermore, why didn't anyone make it clear that this policy did not work for the restaurant money?

The Food Services department at Stern announced last September via email that they were initiating a new program that would enable us to use our caf cards at three midtown locations including Tiberius, Eden Wok, and Mendy's as well as three uptown locations including Lake Como Pizza, Golan Heights, and Chop Chop. The email indicated that all students would be able to use $250 total from their caf card money in these locations. This money was taken from each student's account and put into a separate fund called an "Omni Bucket." It was also explicitly stated, "This new program will be initiated on a trial basis and will be reviewed throughout the Fall Semester."

What the email failed to indicate was who exactly would "review" this new program "throughout the Fall semester." Would the Food Services Department evaluate the program's success? Or, possibly the student body could say that they were pro-restaurant-money? Maybe the student leaders could form an opinion as well?

Sarah Lazaros SCW '13 "reviewed" the new restaurant plan quite positively. Said Lazarous, "This plan was a wonderful addition to the caf card system. It was particularly useful when the caf food was not to my liking, or when the caf happened to be closed on Saturday and Thursday evenings." Lazaros even stated, "This program was the best innovation in the history of the YU caf."

Leah Meadvin SCW '13 also shared her positive feedback. Meadvin works on Tuesdays and Thursdays and often returns after the caf has closed for the evening. With the new program, she was able to use her restaurant money to buy dinner. Meadvin pointed out, "The program enabled me to take my visiting friends from other universities out for a nice meal in a restaurant, instead of eating in the actual caf." She also pointed out that, "Midtown is our campus, and by enabling us to expand our meal plans to the restaurants it extended our campus life significantly." Raskas indicated that many more students shared this positive outlook about the new program.

With all of this positive feedback, it came as a shock to many that there was a decision to allot $100 extra into each person's account instead of $250 like last semester. Marcy Reiz, Project Manager at Yeshiva University, commented on the issue. "As this is a pilot program," said Reiz, "$100 is all that could be allocated based on available funds for this semester." This response indicates that while the Food Services department may want to adhere to the students' requests, it seems that based on financial issues it would significantly burden the department and they recently decided they did not have the funds to continue it at all.

However, according to Raskas, the plan had never been to renew the students' restaurant money. The $250 was intended to last everyone for an entire year. The original email sent out never explicitly informed the student body about this plan, which caused students to use up their restaurant money with the expectation that it would be renewed the following semester. The Food Services Department compromised and agreed to allow the students to receive $100 into their Omni Bucket accounts.

It seems that this issue and confusion stemmed from a lack of communication between the faculty and the student body. Eli Gancz, YC '15, commented on the fact that he was unaware that he would not receive $250 for his restaurant money in this upcoming spring semester. He blamed his lack of knowledge on this lack of communication. Gancz suggested, "Maybe it would be beneficial to do more than just one ystud to our YU email accounts, especially if the issue is regarding our money and how we are able to spend it." It almost appears that by not properly informing the students about the upcoming changes in the meal programs, there may be something to hide. Likewise, this lack of communication leads to misinformation; most information for this article was obtained through the grapevine or the Student Life Committee,

Maayan Hachen, chairperson of the SLC, did mention the Food Service's generally responsive attitude toward the student's wants. "They're pretty responsive to food requests," said Hachen. "You see, for example, last week students asked for more varieties of drinks, and this week they brought back the Gold Peak drinks. Students should really be in touch with us if something they used to see in the caf that's no longer there."

It is commendable that Food Services listens to students' requests, however it the confusion with the restaurant money is also of concern. Clearly, the system is not perfect, but this does not mean that the people in charge – whoever they may be – aren't trying to better our experiences at Yeshiva. Raskas commented, "As always, the Student Life Committee is working to ensure students' satisfaction. We are working closely with Food Services to best serve the students' interests. The restaurant program will continue in the fall, and we look forward to smoothing out the details." While no one may know the details of what will be in the upcoming semesters, hopefully we will be able to freely use our caf cards at Tiberius or Golan in the wee hours of the morning, long after the actual caf has closed.

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