UC Davis Dining Commons (DC) recently implemented a new rule that will only allow students with meal plans to have 10 guest swipes. This means that those students can only swipe in 10 additional guests a quarter. The rule will limit the sense of community that sharing swipes has created in the past among freshmen and upperclassmen, while also limiting the ways in which students can use the swipes they have already purchased.
An officer of Student Development said one reason for the new policy is to prevent freshmen from feeling pressured to use their swipes to let in big groups of people from extracurricular activities they are involved in. This was specifically listed as an issue among athletes and students participating in Greek Life who may feel that they have to swipe in their whole team or multiple members of their sorority or fraternity.
In our experiences and based on what we’ve seen with others, the act of swiping in a group does not result from feeling pressured, but from wanting to create community or friendship. Swiping in a friend can help those two students bond, or allow a freshman to show appreciation to an upperclassman for a being mentor. In most cases, freshmen are happy to swipe in the people that participate in groups with them.
Buying and selling swipes to other students was another act that led to this rule. In previous years, there has been a Facebook group that students with meal plans could post on, offering to sell swipes to anyone who wants to eat at the DC for a reduced cost. Last year, many upperclassmen bought swipes from freshmen for $2 or $3, instead of paying the $12 it costs to enter the DC without a meal plan. While freshmen were making a small profit from this, they had already paid for the meal plan. This is why it should not really matter whether they sold their swipes or used them. Also, freshmen often don’t realize how many swipes they will need, resulting in too many swipes than they know what to do with. Selling their unused swipes is a way to redeem them for cash.
Another issue associated with swiping students in is the rush of meals that DC cooks have to prepare at the end of the quarter or year, right when students decide they need to use all of their swipes before the meal plans change. However, it is completely possible that the DC will still face this problem without unregulated guest swipes. When freshmen realize that they have too many swipes left at the end of the year, they will want to use them. This will lead to going to the DC more often than they did all year, and that will again lead to the overload of demand for meals that was the problem with unlimited guest swipes.
One way students can redeem their unused swipes is by trading in their remaining swipes at the end of the year for $3 in Aggie Cash per swipe or by donating their swipes to a Swipe Out Hunger Fund, which helps feed students throughout Yolo County. Both of these options have also been available in previous years, but they were not advertised, which has meant that students do not get a full value for the swipes that they already purchased. If these options go unadvertised again, many freshmen who purchased meal plans will not use their swipes, trade them in, or donate them. will not redeem their unused swipes.
The fact that Aggie Cash is no longer valid at off-campus venues means that students who redeem their swipes for Aggie Cash have fewer options compared to years past. Gaining $3 in cash from a swipe sold on the Facebook group would remove this restriction, since that money can be used anywhere. The lack of places with which students can use Aggie Cash shows that this option is not as viable as selling a swipe for cash would be.
Students are left with limited options when they are given a finite amount of swipes to use every quarter, and having only 10 guest swipes is detrimental to the sense of community that students who swipe their friends into DC have been able to form in the past. When students buy a meal plan, they should be able to use those swipes however they want to, whether they are swiping themselves in, a friend in, or their entire family in. Ultimately this rule will not benefit students who have bought meal plans, and it may not fix the issues that the DC aims to resolve.