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The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

Campus dining card update causes confusion

Flex outages and closed dining options limits students’ food access

During the first week of the spring semester at Saint Louis University, several on-campus dining locations were unable to accept Flex dollars, causing food access issues for many students on campus. 

One of SLU’s larger dining options, Fusz Hall, which contains three restaurants and a small market, is still closed for renovation, despite previous signs posted around Fusz that assured that the changes would be completed by the end of Winter Break. 

With the Flex issues, several on-campus establishments such as the C-store in the BSC and the BSC food court, only accepted cash, credit and debit payments. Some locations are asking students to write down their student ID numbers to be charged later, but this was not an option available at all locations. 

According to Benjamin Pearlman, the assistant vice president of student engagement at SLU, the issue was due to a software update. The software used by Sodexo at their registers was upgraded, and the new software was not compatible with the SLU card management software. 

These two must be aligned before university cards can be accepted at various locations on campus, Pearlman said. He said that permanent solutions are being rolled out as quickly as possible. 

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The suddenness of this issue and lack of timely response led students to feel confused and panicked over the current dining situation. 

Freshman and sophomore students living in dorms are most affected by these changes. For students who have dietary restrictions or specific food requirements, the Flex outage, as well as one of the main dining locations being closed, has caused limited access to daily meals. 

All freshman students are automatically enrolled in the All Access meal plan, which includes unlimited meal swipes and $311 of Flex. 

Freshman Lily Nitsch said the Flex situation has negatively affected her due to her avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). 

“Many of my safe meals are no longer an option for me, so I’ve been skipping meals,” Nitsch said.

Many students have different dining requirements. Sophomore Hailey Jones is part of the Physical Therapy program and is currently on the Block 80 meal plan. She has a gluten allergy and said she has struggled with cross-contamination in the dining hall. She does not have a personal kitchen and said her main food sources are Fusz and Panera. 

“Fusz being closed has cut me down to only one reliable option, which has ridiculous lines now that other places are either closed or don’t take Flex,” Jones said. “The line sometimes takes so long that I can’t eat before I go to class.”

For Junior Mia Yeo, the current food situation has had a significant impact on her day-to-day life. Yeo is on the Block 80 plan, which includes 80 meal swipes and $995 of Flex, and currently lives in a dorm on campus.

She said she relies on campus dining for the majority of her meals, and having the food hall in her dorm, Fusz, closed was already inconvenient. On top of that, the Flex outage provided additional challenges. 

“Throughout all of my years at SLU, I have never seen the Flex system go down as many times as it has this year,” Yeo said. “Instructions on what to do to continue to utilize my meal plan when this occurs are often unclear and have resulted in me getting to the cash register and being told that I have to pay cash or credit for my meal, and I don’t usually carry those items with me across campus.”

Students expressed their frustrations on the DineSLU Instagram and contacted SLU administration. One user commented “we pay so much for a meal plan and now we can’t even use it? seriously?”

Fusz Hall remains closed despite announcements stating it would be back open last week. (Abby Campbell)

On Jan. 22, students received an email from Benjamin Pearlman explaining the issues and offering an explanation on how to continue using Flex despite the software issues. The email stated that “Students with SLUcard will not be turned away for campus dining locations due to the outage. We apologize for the confusion and inconvenience these issues have caused and are continuing to work to solve them as quickly as possible.”

The previous week, DineSLU announced that Flex was out through an Instagram post, and the email was sent only after students spoke out and voiced concerns on the social media platform in the days prior. 

This delayed communication was frustrating for students like freshman Rina Abouantoun, who expressed their disappointment with how the issue was being handled.  

“It feels like SLU is putting no effort into resolving this. If they make us pay with debit and credit, they should reimburse us,” Abouantoun said.

Pearlman said there are no plans to compensate or reimburse students. If they have questions about their balances or plans, they are encouraged to contact [email protected].

Junior Kayl Baker said they are frustrated with the university’s temporary solution to the problem. They added they were disappointed in SLU’s response, and that not all students can afford to pay for their meals with credit or cash, no matter how temporary. 

“We pay for our meal plans so we can eat. No student should have to worry about how they’re paying for their next meal when they already paid for it.” 

Pearlman said that Subway and Qdoba were on track to be open on Jan. 26. As of Jan. 29, the restaurants remained closed.

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About the Contributors
Mariya Yasinovska
Mariya Yasinovska, Copy Editor
Mariya Yasinovska is a junior studying English and Communication at Saint Louis University. She enjoys storytelling and poetry and believes in always standing up for what is right. In her free time, you can find her at a local coffee shop drinking a chai or going to concerts around the area. Email her at [email protected]
Abby Campbell
Abby Campbell, Photography Editor
Abby (she/her/hers) is a senior at SLU studying Integrated Strategic Communication. This is her third year with the Unews as photography editor, and she cannot wait for another year with the Unews team. In her free time she enjoys cooking, watching reality tv, and, of course, taking pictures!
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