As more than 212 students across campus suffered the effects of the norovirus, many older students across were happy to be free from the demanding meal plan requirement forced upon freshmen and sophomores. Last week’s outbreak sheds light on a fundamentally unfair burden; It is time we allowed everyone, not just juniors and seniors, to decide whether or not they want to patronize Leo’s.

Underclassmen can choose between unlimited, 24, 14 or 10 meals a week but are restricted from buying block plans or opting out entirely. If a student chooses the 10-meal plan, he ends up paying more than $7.80 per meal. For the same amount of money, students could get a savory sandwich at Wisey’s, a Study Snacks meal at The Tombs or a healthy salad from SweetGreen.

By making meal plans mandatory for freshmen and sophomores, the university serves on a silver platter a monopoly to ARAMARK, the university’s food service provider. (The only time a silver platter and Leo’s have ever been associated.) Since underclassmen have no choice but to pay above-average prices for subpar meals, ARAMARK has little incentive to increase the quality of the food and lower the prices. Many students don’t frequent Leo’s because they genuinely want to; they go because they feel compelled to, since the meal has already been paid for.

Allowing all students to choose whether or not they want to buy meal plans would probably lower ARAMARK’s bottom line, at least in the short run, and it may make it less desirable for food service providers to bid on serving Georgetown. But it would also force ARAMARK or anyone else to evaluate what students want and make the substantive changes needed. If the dining hall truly starts to serve students, folks will start to eat there voluntarily.

The argument that eating at Leo’s gives freshmen the opportunity to socialize is fair; however, that argument assumes that freshmen will see friendly faces in the cafeteria and sit down with a spontaneously chosen group, an event which hardly ever occurs. In reality, most students go to Leo’s at a chosen time with specific people, or they sit alone. And this can be done just as easily and more comfortably at The Tombs or other restaurants.

Some may argue that students who live in dorms need meal plans because they can’t prepare their own meals. But in dorms, students have access to a stove, oven and kitchen sink in each common room and a small fridge in their rooms, the same facilities that students in Village B have at their disposal. Dorms are not so fundamentally different from apartments that dorm inhabitants should not have the right to cook a majority of their meals.

There will always be students who will choose to have Leo’s plans, whether they are freshmen or seniors. Some students turn to Leo’s for convenience, the opportunity to run into friends and their weekly fix of chicken fingers. But those of us who need or want to save some money or would just rather walk the extra two blocks for a Chicken Madness and a Snapple should be given the choice to do so.

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