A day of tumult and distress on campus today. The entire AUBG community has been overtaken by the protest. After the very successful first wave of revolt, held both in and outside Main Building, students agreed that their protesting actions will continue until certain demands are met. The biggest and most important goal of students at the moment is the complete abolition of the Meal Plan. As protesters vocally put it today: “No Meal Plan!” and ”We will not pay!”.
In the early afternoon today, a meeting was held with representatives from student media and Provost Reed. He tried to respond in the best possible way to our questions and concerns. Here is a brief:
Provost Reed, it has been a tradition in most American Universities to have a meal plan as part of student services provided, so it could have been expected that at some point, this policy would be implemented here as well. However, in US universities, the meal plans offer a variety of options in terms of the meals included and respectively the amount of money spent on them, do you think this would be a good policy for AUBG?
- That actually was one of the ideas that we had. By scaling it the way we did, having it money based as opposed to meal-based, we wanted people to have the choice – where to eat, what to eat, and how many times.
So, apart from the dining halls in Main Building and the New Student Center, students will be able to use their money in the Skaptopara dining services?
- The facilities they can use are several: the canteens in Main Building and the New Student Center. There will be a cafe in the new Student Center and the two canteens in Skaptopara.
Do you plan any changes in prices with the new dining services on the horizon?
-Prices almost always go up. They will not go up, because we are moving into the new Student Center, they will go up because prices in Bulgaria go up. The goal of Dining Services is not to make profit, it is to break even and provide a service, suitable for students, and we will expand the range of the cuisine in order to do that.
To the question how the university has actually tried to improve the service throughout the years and how it can become more attractive to students, so that they will be willing to use the canteens as their own free choice, Provost Reed replied that students were already using the canteens and dining services quite a lot. The contribution of the new Student Center would be mostly in terms of the convenience it would bring, because it will be close to the dormitories and will provide a higher-level of service. Also, there has been a series of food tastings, in which even Lydia Krise participated herself and everyone agreed on the fact that the food was really nice.
”What we are trying to do now is expand our range with the new salad bar in Main Building. In the near future, with the Student Center being in service we will provide a wider range of dining options.”
Provost Reed also mentioned creating an advisory committee that will be in charge of working out the best possible meals to be provided for students, taking into consideration their dietary needs and requirements.
In that train of though the SG president made a proposal on behalf of AUBG’s students on that matter. The idea is that an ad hoc committe should be in charge of this process, as students need to actively participate. Provost Reed approved the offer.
Another important point made during the meeting was that many students live off-campus, and some of them are actually from Blagoevgrad. They would most probably choose not to use the canteen, as they can have home-cooked meals every day. To that Cyrus Reed replied that it will be looked into, and the administration can be more flexible in those cases. However, since ”dining halls are a very important part of college experience”, as Reed put it, those forementioned students would still need to put down a certain amount of money on their accounts in advance, to be used in the dining halls. To Reed that would stimulate students, living off-campus to spend more time in Skaptopara and will facilitate their integratation into AUBG community. SG President Jaba Shalamberidze made a point there that some of the best-integrated students are actually living off-campus, here examples were Venelina Miteva (SG Treasurer) and More Honors president (Ivan Daskalov). However, the extremely light-hearted tone of the Provost continued in saying that he knows of many more examples of students not having the best college experience they could, to his discretion, simply because they do not live in the dorms.
On the discussion went, with Provost Reeds continuous statement that the new Student Center will be the most remarkable facility on campus, and its benefits overcast its downfalls. He also expressed his approval of the student protest and said: ”I will be looking forward to it.” In the beginning of the meeting he also expressed his amusement by the picture colage of him wearing a fez, and he stated he would love to see it.
Earlier today, President Huwiler addressed the student body in a memo, sent via e-mail. In the letter he stated that in case students come up with better business decisions than the already proposed, the administration will be more than happy to look into them and implement them.
There have been certain suggestions that the facilities in the Student Center (conference rooms, the sports and theater halls) could be shared with Blagoevgrad’s community for public events. When using the Student Center for conferences and sports and cultural events, the organizers of those same events would be paying a certain amount of money and through that the actual sustaining costs of the building could be reduced. The Provost’s response here was that this is already part of the plan for the Student center, but the profit made in such a way will not be enough to provide for the building’s maintenance.
SInce Mr Alexandrov ( AUBG’s CFO) is on a vacation at the moment we could not find out what the actual costs of the building would be and why it would need such a proliferous funding. The issue will be addressed as soon as Alexander Alexandrov is available for an interview.