Changes to Marketplace meal swipe system complicate and limit student food options


It seems that the College of William and Mary can never leave well enough alone. After a year of take-out containers at the campus dining halls, my friends and I could not have been happier to return to fairly normal dining, since virtually every student and staff member is now vaccinated. However, after stepping foot into our favorite dining hall, Marketplace, it immediately became clear that the system was different.

Marketplace has always been a unique dining hall. While Center Court at Sadler Center and Caf have always been all-you-can-eat style, Marketplace allots one entrée, two sides and a drink for a meal swipe. Well, at least until this semester. Now, meal swipes equal $8 the minute you step into Marketplace — nowhere else — and we’re now even more limited as to what we get for a swipe at this dining hall than before. This change is not only an inconvenient new organizational system, but it also drastically changes what you can get for a swipe. For example, the other day, I got a rice dish with vegetables and tofu from the new Oodles station. In the past, this would presumably be considered an entrée, and I would be able to get two sides as well as a drink. Now, after asking good ol’ Christian From Marketplace, I could either get one cheap side or a drink, not even both. This drastically reduces the food we can get for a swipe.

Due to my busy schedule, I always like to make sure I’m getting enough food at the dining halls to sustain me until my next meal, and considering the price of a meal plan, as well as the fact that the system is supposed to make dining easy for college students, this change does not work for most students’ lifestyles. Every time I’ve been at Marketplace, I hear the buzz of students asking their friends what they’re supposed to do and complaining about the drastic change. Lines are much longer because the changes are confusing, and they also make the checkout process take longer overall.

I should clarify that students are not confused because they are not paying attention. It’s confusing because not everything is marked by price. For example, when I got fajitas at the entrée box, there was no price to be seen, so I had to just guess how much I thought it was worth and decide any extra food based on that guess. When I tried to ask about the price, no one could give me a straight answer. Not everything is labelled, and if the dining hall is now dependent on pricing, that’s not something we can just overlook and pretend doesn’t matter.

If the school wanted to make this change, they should have made this information public before students had to choose their dining plan. For students who eat at Marketplace a lot, they could potentially run out of meal swipes much earlier than they expected. It’s not just a change in organization at the dining hall, it’s a change to all the portions.

Potentially, this could have been a good change if meal swipes in Marketplace could now count toward everything. This dining hall has a whole section of sushi, candy and snacks that students cannot count toward a meal swipe, and they must now use their dining dollars or Express to buy those instead. If I could now get sushi or a Starbucks iced coffee along with a meal swipe, I could definitely see this system paying off for students. But that’s not the case. It’s not a way to solve any problems that concern students besides a way to get us to pay more for something we used to get for less. Even water costs money there, and I have never been to a restaurant or cafeteria that charges for tap water before. Even at Starbucks, a store known for price gouging, a venti water is free.

I’m not going to lie and say I’ll never go to Marketplace ever again, because I love its convenience and selection, but it is just another example of a change at the College that complicates student life for their own benefit.

Alyssa Slovin ‘22 is an English and marketing double major. Besides her work at The Flat Hat as Opinions Editor and Flat Hat Magazine as Editor-in-Chief, she is involved in Sinfonicron Light Opera Company, The Gallery and Active Minds. Email Alyssa at  


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