MSA discusses EZ Charge expansion

Downtown vendors and restaurants would be included in expansion.

The Missouri Students Association Senate, along with the MSA Ad Hoc Committee on Campus Dining, met with campus administrators to discuss the expansion of the EZ Charge system. This expansion would include off-campus restaurants and food vendors.

"As a whole, this would provide MU students with more flexibility in choosing dining options," MSA Operations Chairman Justin Mohn said. "This is also a great way to relieve problems with congestion in dining halls that have existed since we've had dining hall closings and record numbers of incoming freshmen."

Mohn, along with MSA President Tim Noce and Abhi Sivasailam, chairman of the MSA Ad Hoc Committee on Campus Dining, have met with Director of Campus Dining Julaine Kiehn, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs and Director of Business Services Paul Toler to discuss the expansion.

The expansion, proposed by Mohn and Sivasailam, is based off of a similar system in place at the University of Texas-Austin. In this system, MU students would put money in a declining balance account that could be spent at off-campus food vendors using their student ID.

MU would charge participating businesses with usage fees to make back the money that would be lost in dining halls. Such fees would include a set-up fee, a 6 percent transaction fee and a monthly equipment rental fee.

Mohn said similar dining systems have been successful on other college campuses.

"University of Texas-Austin and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill both offer off-campus dining options and neither reported the system having an impact on their cash flow in dining services," Mohn said.

Part of the current process is ensuring the implementation of this system would be practical, efficient and legal, Noce said.

"What we're doing now is working with business services to make sure everything is legal," Noce said. "My stance on it is if you want things to be done right, you need to let the logistics go through all channels of MU and ensure that administrators are on board."

Noce said although implementation plans are not complete, he sees no potential downsides in the system.

"I think EZ Charge expansion would be great," Noce said. "Businesses would have increased sales, revenue and customers, and students would have more choices. I really don't see a downfall to it from an economic perspective or a business perspective."

Some businesses have expressed interest in participating in EZ Charge expansion, but specific relationships with business will not be established until plans become more concrete, Sivasailam said.

"Some vendors have casually expressed interest in a program like this, but all discussions have been very preliminary," Sivasailam said. "As we work with administrators to create a model we can all live with, it will be clearer which vendors will want to come on board."

Concrete discussions with vendors will not be held until acceptance is given from campus administrators, Mohn said.

"It would be premature to start looking for commitments since we don't yet know whether university administration considers the plan viable or not," Mohn said. "We'll be ready to start talking to vendors when we know exactly what we're asking them to agree to."

Sivasailam said he does not expect the plan to be implemented immediately.

"There are quite a few logistical minefields we need to navigate through before we can get this in place, but the very earliest I could see this program rolled out would be in early 2011," Sivasailam said. "That being said, things could change that push this date back or forth."

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