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Blue Room eliminates option to pay with meal plan

Popular student center cafe now only accepts cash, Bear Bucks

The cafe’s pivot away from flex points prompts concerns of inequality on campus due to the fact that Bear Bucks come from students’ personal funds.
The cafe’s pivot away from flex points prompts concerns of inequality on campus due to the fact that Bear Bucks come from students’ personal funds.

Brown Dining Services eliminated the option for students to use Flex Points or meal credits as payment at the Blue Room Cafe this year. Now, the Blue Room only accepts U.S. Dollars and Bear Bucks, which students can activate by adding funds to their ID card.

Before this switch, the Blue Room allowed students to use Flex Points at all times and meal credits after 4 p.m. This gave students the opportunity to utilize their meal plans on drinks, pastry items, custom sandwiches, salads and various dinner specials at the cafe.

The switch was intended to prompt students to eat and spend points at other on-campus eateries, namely the Ivy Room, instead of the Blue Room, according to Vice President of Dining Programs George Barboza. “To better serve the campus community,” he wrote in an email to The Herald, “we transitioned the Blue Room to the Ivy Room as a student-centric eatery starting this fall.”

Barboza wrote that “because of the larger footprint at (the Ivy Room), we are able to provide an enhanced dining experience and offer student favorites such as customized salad and sandwich options, smoothies, dinner entrees from local restaurants and more. We are also accepting Flex Points and meal credits for lunch and dinner service.”

Many students who remain on meal plan said they were surprised by the change. 

Bryan Bermeo ’24 said he went into this year thinking he could use points at the Blue Room, and that he now avoids purchasing anything from the cafe altogether. He added that not all students can afford to use funds outside of their meal plan. “You are essentially barring a community of kids from access to convenient food,” Bermeo said.

Barboza wrote that the Blue Room has “not seen a significant decrease in business with this change,” and that BDS will reassess this semester to decide whether this change will be permanent. He added that there are still plenty of locations where students can use points: “Flex Points are accepted at all other campus eateries, including the Ratty, V-Dub, Josiah’s, Gourmet to Go, Andrews Commons, the Ivy Room and School of Engineering Cafe.”

Keiley Thompson ’24 echoed Bermeo’s sentiments. She said she enjoys studying at the Blue Room and is confused by BDS’ decision. “Only people that have extra funds can eat at the Blue Room,” she said. “If it is a part of the campus center, it should be for everyone, not just for the visitors or the people that can afford it.”

A student who is employed by BDS and asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution told The Herald that they feel that the administration did not keep student interests in mind when implementing the change. 

“I don’t think they understand how many students really liked (eating at the Blue Room),” they said, “and I don’t think they understand how long the lines are and how we actually do need as many dining halls as possible.”



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