Kenny Tindal, Broadside Correspondent

Throughout my freshman year, when we were still allowed to have the Freedom meal plan, I wished I could use my money off campus. Even now there are many nights where I opt to stay on campus and eat at Taco Bell than go out to Old Town or University Mall because my Freedom was so high, but my wallet was so thin.

I think it is only natural to want to explore and see what is out there, and when you are from a different county or even state and your outside funds are not limitless, and it is hard, knowing you probably should be eating on campus instead. George Mason University should be encouraging their residential students to leave campus, and see what Fairfax has to offer them. Students who have a flexible meal plan usable off campus will find themselves out in Fairfax and exploring more.

The universities solution to off campus dining is Mason Money, which can basically turn your Mason ID card into a debit card; usable at many places on and off campus, such as University Theatres at University Mall, and Chipotle on Lee Highway. Students can add money to their card account at anytime online, in person, or even by mail.

This is a step in the right direction, but I believe eating off campus should be more than a treat for those of us with meal plans. I believe we should be able to take the CUE at a moment’s notice and go somewhere in Old Town and not worry if you will still have enough money to buy Modern Warfare 2.

If Freedom Funds were used off campus, it would bring much needed life and business to Old Town Fairfax. Even after the recent renovation in Old Town, many restaurants are not getting the kind of customer flow they were expecting, and some are planning to close down after their leases are up. GMU students should be eating there often to help, and I can think of no better way to move that along than to upgrade meal plans so they are functional off campus.

University Services does however have a very good reason for not wanting students using meal plans off campus, and that is because they would lose money that would normally be put back into food services on campus. Losing this money would make food costs rise, and the general quality of food on campus decrease.

I love the food on campus, and it is one of the many reasons I decided to come to GMU in the first place. But I see this as a good competition between services, and it would force the dining services in GMU to get better and better to draw in students. They are already the most convenient food option for residential students, but then they would also have to keep improving to keep students eating on campus, and I think that is a good thing.

In conclusion, with all the benefits meal plans off campus can offer for students, such as a reason to explore Fairfax, helping Old Town Fairfax, and even making our on campus dining better than before, I hope University Services feels the same way.