This story was reported as part of our UTA Unfolded initiative, which we launched earlier this semester. Our reader-led initiative focuses on answering and unfolding any questions you may have about campus.
Civil engineering freshman Mateo Galvez said when he purchased a meal plan, he was under the impression the meal swipes could be used interchangeably at the Plaza restaurants throughout the day.
Later on, he realized the swipes can only be used during certain time periods. Depending on the meal plan, students are allowed a specific number of meal swipes, Dining Dollars and College Park Dollars for the duration of the semester.
Galvez submitted this question: Why can’t we use meal swipes at the Plaza more than once per day? UTA Unfolded investigated.
The Silver Plan, which Galvez uses, includes 190 meal swipes, $225 Dining Dollars, $50 College Park Dollars and allows him to use one meal swipe during each meal period, seven days a week, according to the university website.
“If we pay for a certain amount of swipes, then we should be able to get that amount of swipes when we want to get that amount of swipes,” Galvez said.
It doesn’t always work out to eat during specific time frames. As a member of Freshman Leaders On Campus, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Leadership Honors Program and a participant in intramural sports, Galvez said he has to eat at odd hours.
“If I want to eat, sometimes I can’t,” he said.
University Center director David Albart said the university introduced the meal exchange about three years ago. It allows students to “exchange” or substitute a pre-determined meal at the Connection Cafe for one at the Plaza restaurants, Freshii, or Einstein Bros. Bagels.
To reduce traffic in the Plaza, the university limits the amount of swipes students are allowed and when they are allowed to use them, Albart said.
Students can use one meal exchange per day between 4 and 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and between 1 and 5 p.m. on Friday, according to the Dine on Campus website.
“Lunch would be just too chaotic if we allowed everybody to go through and swipe at that time,” Albart said.
Galvez said last semester he had about 30 leftover meal swipes he wasn’t able to use because of the “inconvenient” time frames the university allows.
“If I have the swipes, I want to be able to use them,” he said.
Political science freshman Megan Tidwell said she has about 100 meal swipes left on her plan with only about a week left in the semester to use them.
“I can’t use them,” Tidwell said. “So they’re kinda going to waste.”
She said the times students are allowed to exchange are inconvenient, so she wasn’t able to use them all.
She tries to eat in the Plaza every night, but they aren’t usually open on the weekends. Since the swipes are restricted to only one per day, it’s hard to use them all, even on the cheapest plan with the fewest swipes, Tidwell said.
Albart said while the university doesn’t currently have a procedure to compensate students for leftover meal swipes, it could potentially find ways in the future.