Students protest meal plan requirement


by Katie Anthony

Every  semester, most Simpson students spend at least $900 on meal plans. This includes students who live in Simpson-owned apartments.While these meal plans are required, students can petition to have the requirement waived. Senior Kathryn Lisk says she holds strong ethical beliefs against Sodexo, Simpson’s food provider. “Basically what it is, is that I’m a vegetarian,” Lisk said. “It has to do a lot with how bad meat is for the environment. By having this meal plan, I feel like I’m paying for the meat that Sodexo is providing, and they get their meat from all over the place. I don’t want to pay for something I don’t believe in.”Blair Stairs, general manager of Simpson Dining Services, said the organization purchases a majority of the meat it serves through Sysco of Iowa, which purchases locally.”Sodexo is committed to sourcing and serving food in a sustainable manner,” Stairs said.Pfeiffer and Storm Street Grill do offer vegetarian options, but Lisk argues that those aren’t enough.”I’m in a hurry most of the time when it comes to meals,” Lisk said. “So it’s convenient for me to just grab express from Pfeiffer, and really, the only option for me is the vegetarian wrap, and I’m sorry, but it’s terrible. There are only a few peppers on it, and that’s it.”For these reasons Lisk petitioned to have her meal plan waived. All petitions go to Jim Thorius, vice president of student development and dean of students, who ultimately decides whether or not to grant the request.Thorius said that each petition is reviewed for each specific case and that a number of things are taken into consideration.”Each petition is reviewed and a decision made based upon the specific request and circumstances.”Lisk’s request was denied.”I met with Dean Thorius after I wrote my formal protest,” Lisk said. “In that meeting, he said to me that it was good for the college to require Simpson students to have meal plans. It made me feel like the money was more important that my ethical beliefs. We go to a Liberal Arts college who encourages us to try all different sorts of education and to form our own beliefs, and now I’m being told that the money is more important than my beliefs, and that’s just not fair.”Lisk has appealed the denial of her petition to President John Byrd. Byrd declined The Simpsonian’s request for an interview.While Lisk had her petition denied, senior Karen Hart petitioned for similar reasons and was approved. “I stopped eating meat years ago for moral and religious reasons,” Hart said. “I have the right to decide what my money buys, especially in regards to what is going to be introduced to my body as food. I protested my meal plan because I refuse to have my money go towards a company that supports factory farming, does not buy locally and as dramatic as it sounds, inevitably in my mind, funds murder.”According to Thorius, students typically ask to have the meal requirement waived when they have strict dietary needs. “When medical conditions impact a student’s dietary needs, there is consultation with the food service staff and dietician to determine if it is possible and feasible to accommodate the dietary needs on campus. A decision to either grant the petition or not is made pending the ability of the food service to accommodate the request.”Thorius went on to say the college tries to listen and take all suggestions and complaints seriously.Hart argues that this is not enough due to the fact that a person’s beliefs should be listened to, and that petitions should be granted for students who have strong ethical problems with Sodexo or with the meal plans.”I think it’s ridiculous that Simpson has made this an issue, especially when it obviously involves deeply held beliefs that we explained fuel our lives,” Hart said. “These beliefs should not be ignored and I am absolutely disgusted that the college that I have trusted in for these very important years of my life would disregard as them as trivial.”In addition to buying meat from a local company, Stairs said Simpson Dining Services purchases produce from Loffredos Produce Company in Des Moines, which buys locally when produce is in season.”Sodexo only purchases food from vendors that meet certain criteria and requirements to insure the safety and well being of our customers,” Stairs said.