College reforms summer housing and meal plan options

As students who plan to work and live on campus this summer complete their housing forms for the May 3 deadline, they will notice a slight change from last year’s process. Instead of using a housing lottery, the College will assign rooms to summer residents via e-mail. Williams College will also not offer the five-meal dining plan as an option for summer residents this year.

Bea Miles, director for facilities services, said the housing change should not have too drastic an impact on students, since students can still indicate their choices, including whether they want a roommate, though on an application rather than at room draw.

“The main motivation was to streamline the system and make it easier to track the room assignments and the open rooms,” Miles said. “Students who submit their housing forms on time will be given as much consideration for the dorm location they want and for rooms located with their friends, as long as those things are noted on their application forms,” she explained.

Summer housing is available to students working in a paid position on campus for at least 20 hours each week and for at least five weeks during the summer. Summer housing for 2010 will be located in the Currier, Gladden, Poker Flats and Prospect buildings. Students participating in the Summer Science Research program will be housed in Gladden.

Timothy Lorenzen ’12 who will be doing research with the computer science department for six weeks this summer, participated in the lottery process last summer when he spent eight weeks on campus last summer. Lorenzen misses the convenience of students being able to choose their own rooms. “The amount of work to run a housing lottery [for] summer housing is comparable to the task of assigning all of those students housing and would leave everyone more satisfied with the process,” he said. “More of my friends are going to be here this summer than last summer. I would really like to live near them, but can’t guarantee that will happen quite like I could in the past.”

In regards to dining options, the five-meals-per-week plan will no longer exist; the minimum plan available to students will consist of 10 meals per week for $65 per week. Students can also choose a 14 meal plan for $91 per week or a 50-block meal plan for $325.

Chris Abayasinghe, assistant director of student dining, explained that for students who will be on campus all summer, the 50 meal block plan is equivalent to five meals a week.

“The meal plan change won’t affect me,” said Brian Shepherd ’11, who plans on doing research with the biology department this summer.  “To get housing paid for, I have to buy a meal plan, but I’ll be here for 10 weeks, so it’s the pretty much the same as the five meal plan of last year.” But Shepherd acknowledged that for students who will not be on campus for the entire summer, the 50-meal block plan is significantly more expensive.

According to Abayasinghe, the money to cover both students’ housing and meal plans is deducted from their payroll each week. If student does not work while on campus for a week or more while still living on campus, or if a student eats more meals than are covered by his plan, then the College deducts the expense from the student’s next paycheck or the student’s next term bill. Abayasinghe said that for students who have graduated and are working on campus over the summer, this process is more difficult because they must be billed separately.

Abayasinghe added that dining services is promoting the 50-meal block over the 5-meal plan as the former makes it more convenient for students to still have meals on campus even on weeks when they are not working. Students are still allowed to be on weekly meal plans during weeks they do not work, but the accrued fees for these meals will be deducted from subsequent paychecks or the next term bill.

“I think this is the best compromise,” Abayasinghe said. “We’re basically giving the students flexibility.” He stressed that the change in summer meal plan policy was not made to increase dining services revenue, but rather to serve the students. “Our business isn’t to earn as much money as we can to make a profit,” Abayasinghe said. “Our job is to provide great services, as well as to meet the need of our students.”

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