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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

UC Davis student seeks legal action against Housing and Dining Services

Sameer Syed took Housing and Dining Services to small claims court after an alleged contract violation regarding Aggie Cash 

 

By SYDNEY AMESTOY — campus@theaggie.org

 

When fourth-year political science major Sameer Syed canceled his meal plan halfway through the quarter earlier this year, the $200 of Aggie Cash he hadn’t spent was voided. Syed said he believes this to have been a contract violation, and has been in a legal battle with UC Davis Housing and Dining services ever since. 

The saga began in March, when Syed, who was a resident at The Green at West Village at the time, canceled his meal plan for the next quarter, along with his roommates. Syed said that he thought the cancellation would only void unused Aggie Cash from previous quarters. However, after canceling, he and his roommates found that their Aggie Cash from the current quarter had also been voided. 

Aggie Cash is a declining balance account that students, faculty and staff use to purchase food at UC Davis Dining Services locations, and is commonly used by students living at on-campus locations, and is included in residential meal plans.

Syed said that he then contacted Housing and Dining Services and requested a refund for his $200 of unused Aggie Cash, but was denied based on the argument that their contract warned students that unused Aggie Cash would be voided if their meal plan was canceled.

“But after checking the contract, there was nothing like that,” Syed said. “It does say that they void Aggie Cash for previous quarters, but […] when I switched to no meal plan, it was still the middle of the current quarter.”

At this point, Syed took Housing and Dining Services to small claims court, where he won four provisions. Some of the provisions included Syed being refunded for his $200 and an amendment to the meal plan contract.

“There’s an Aggie Cash webpage […] that doesn’t say anything about [the voided cash],” Syed said. “So I said, ‘One of the settlement provisions is that you make changes to the website to make it more clear to students.’”

The current 2022-2023 residential housing contract, provided on the Housing and Dining Services website, now includes a revised statement about Aggie Cash in the meal plan section.

“$200 Aggie Cash per quarter is included in the residential meal plan for students living in Residence Halls,” the statement reads. “Students canceling their contract will be refunded for unused Aggie Cash for the current quarter and unused Aggie Cash from previous quarters will be forfeited.”

As of Nov. 21, Housing and Dining Services did not respond to a request for comment on whether the change in policy came as a result of the lawsuit.

Syed also requested public record data from previous quarters regarding the total amount of Aggie Cash that had been voided because of a mid-quarter meal plan cancellation. However, according to Syed, only one previous quarter’s information was provided. 

Housing and Dining Services provided information from winter quarter 2021. According to their data, the total amount of Aggie Cash forfeited from the quarter because of mid-quarter cancellations totaled $13,287.61. In 42 of these cases, the Aggie Cash forfeited ranged from $175 to $200.

In alignment with the terms of the agreement, we have provided Sameer with information regarding the total amount of unused Aggie Cash that was forfeited by students canceling their residential meal plan mid-year,” Donelle Davis, executive director for Housing and Dining Services, said via email. “We have indicated that updates will be made to the housing contract and website for the upcoming academic year.”

However, according to Syed, he doesn’t consider this information to be enough. 

“Now I’m looking at a class action [lawsuit], because all together it seems like this is a pretty extensive problem,” Syed said. “They’ve voided 221 students’ Aggie Cash. And just for this one quarter from those 221 students, they essentially unlawfully took a total of $13,287.61.”

Written by: Sydney Amestoy — campus@theaggie.org