Spacer

www.owdna.org
Mail@owdna.org

















Spacer www.owdna.org
Mail@owdna.org





















Spacer www.owdna.org
Mail@owdna.org





















Spacer www.owdna.org
Mail@owdna.org





















Spacer www.owdna.org
Mail@owdna.org





















Spacer www.owdna.org
Mail@owdna.org
































































Main Menu Web Site Guide | News | About OWDNA | Neighborhood Info | Photographs of OWD | Media Spotlight| Citizen Resources | Home
Reforming the DukeCard

From various media

 

Town-Gown On Points
by John Schelp and Carol Anderson
Duke Towerview magazine (February 2006)

In the Princeton Review’s 2005 student survey of college rankings, Duke’s town-gown relations were fifth worst in the nation. Duke officials may dismiss them as unscientific, but these ratings raise questions about how students form such negative perceptions of town-gown relations and how Duke might counter them.

When the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association investigated poor student attendance at a Duke-sponsored Block Party on Ninth Street last fall, it found that changing DukeCard policies could counter these perceptions. Current DukeCard policies prohibit students from using the card for purchases off-campus, discouraging them from patronizing local merchants. For small, locally owned merchants, the costs associated with the program ($1,500 to $3,500 start-up costs and 18% commissions) make participation prohibitively expensive.

Many other universities have programs that enable student IDs to function like debit cards by linking them to area bank accounts. Both UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State allow students to use their cards off campus. NCSU charges no commissions. Instead of dragging their feet, senior administrators like Tallman Trask and Kemel Dawkins should implement DukeCard policies that would encourage students to venture off campus, benefit both the Duke and Durham communities, and improve perceptions of town-gown relations.

In a Chronicle article, Duke officials attributed limiting DukeCard use to on-campus purchases to the University’s tax-exempt status. But as a local business owner pointed out in a recent Chronicle article (1/24/06), there’s a big difference between the University’s purchases being exempt from sales taxes and individual DukeCard purchases of pizza or sandwiches being tax-exempt. Bluntly stated, this difference is fairness.

Current DukeCard policies unfairly discourage Duke students and employees from venturing off campus to purchase food, textbooks, or other items, depriving Durham and North Carolina of sales tax revenues and placing this burden on the backs of local residents and businesses. Surely this is not the reason we grant tax-exempt status to institutions of higher learning. And it may surprise Blue Devil parents that Duke’s dubious use of its tax-exempt status is compounded by its 18% bite from every pizza-on-points delivered to their student’s dorm.

Lowering DukeCard start-up costs and commissions would improve town-gown relations, enabling more small, local businesses — like Blue Corn Café or the Regulator bookstore on Ninth Street or Morgan Imports at Brightleaf — to participate in the program. Duke’s current high set-up fees and 18% commissions are more easily absorbed by national chains than small, local merchants. And supporting locally owned merchants is another important way Duke could help the local economy and tax base.

In April 2005, Publisher’s Weekly reported an Austin, Texas study that found $45 of every $100 spent at an independent Austin bookseller stayed in the local community, while just $13 of every $100 spent at the national chain Borders stayed in the community, making the independent bookseller’s contribution to the local economy nearly three times higher than the national chain’s. It is reasonable to think that what holds for booksellers also holds for restaurants, music sellers, and boutiques.

Thus, both DukeCard holders and Durham will benefit from thriving local business districts with locally owned merchants frequented by Duke students and staff — the former by a wider array of dining, shopping, and entertainment choices and more contact with the Durham community and the latter by new customers and increased tax revenues in the local community.

Anderson owns Vaguely Reminiscent on Ninth Street; Schelp is president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association (www.owdna.org), a Duke-Durham partnership neighborhood.

****   

Letter: DukeCard questioned
Herald-Sun, 12 December 2005

After a poorly attended 9th Street block party Duke sponsored during student orientation, the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association received feedback from merchants suggesting that DukeCard policies contributed to the poor turnout. The DukeCard allows students to use the card rather than cash for purchases, but only for purchases on the Duke campus.

We asked Duke officials if the system could be changed to allow DukeCard use for off-campus purchases. We also asked if Duke could reduce both start-up costs for merchants (currently $1,200-$3,500) and its commissions on purchases (currently around 18 percent), high costs that make program participation prohibitive for many local businesses.

President Richard Brodhead's initial response was encouraging and Duke officials promised a timely response. But the semester's end and the holiday season are here, and we're still waiting.

In the meantime, we learned that Indiana University charges local merchants $300 in set-up costs and 3-5 percent in commissions. We also learned that UNC One Cards can be linked to an area bank account and used as check-cards at off-campus businesses -- a model Duke should consider.

The Duke Chronicle quoted Duke students saying they seldom patronize off-campus businesses because they prefer the convenience of making purchases with DukeCards rather than cash.

Duke officials have repeatedly said they support business districts near campus. Expanding the DukeCard program along the UNC One Card model would encourage more students to venture off campus and patronize Durham businesses.

And cutting DukeCard set-up and commission costs would be a way for Duke to put its money where its mouth is.

John Schelp; John Browner
Durham

Browner owns Books On Ninth; Schelp represents the board of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association.

****

Letter: Duke a non-profit?
Herald-Sun, 16 December 2005

An earlier letter to The Herald-Sun questioned Duke for its slow response in expanding the DukeCard system to off-campus merchants [see above]. I'd like to think that the delay is just the byproduct of a lethargic Duke bureaucracy, but it seems there may be more than that.

The Oct. 28 Duke Chronicle reported that DukeCard purchases are tax-exempt, and therefore must be conducted on campus. So, one of the pizza chains would deliver a pizza to a dorm, accept the DukeCard as payment, and Durham gets no sales tax. All the while, Duke takes an 18 percent slice for itself, and the card can't be used off-campus. Thanks Duke! Way to help the community!

Duke gets these tax breaks because it's a "non-profit," but this looks a whole lot like "for-profit" behavior. I just don't see other non-profits engaging in such elaborate schemes to avoid paying sales tax.

By opening up the DukeCard system to all local merchants, Duke could avoid this appearance of impropriety, and Durham would receive the sales tax revenue. Those hefty commissions and start-up fees would have to be lowered too, which could really hurt DukeCard's profitability. Lucky for us, Duke is a non-profit organization, and doesn't care about such things.

Chris Sevick Durham

****

Letter: Much confusion over DukeCard taxation issue
Herald-Sun, 2 January 2006

Michael Palmer, a representative of Duke University, was kind enough to reply to my letter in The Herald-Sun [Letters, Dec. 25, see below]. He said that I was "misinformed" when I asserted that DukeCard purchases were tax-exempt. OK. Let's check out my information. An article in the Duke Chronicle of Oct. 28 reports that "students can only pay for purchases with points if they are delivered on campus."

Then, the Chronicle actually gets a Duke official to provide the reason: "Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst explained that meal plan points are non-taxable and thus can only be used on campus. He added that Kemel Dawkins, vice president for campus services, is currently in talks with lawyers about the issue. Are these statements true or not?

Whichever way you cut it, somebody at Duke "misinformed" me. I'm not interested in affixing blame to either of these individuals, but I think it demonstrates how frustrating it can be to deal with Duke's administration. It's time for some straight answers. They have heard our concerns, and told us that they'd get back to us with the details in a month. It's now been well over two months. So, we're all waiting for a comprehensive statement regarding the DukeCard and sales tax. Once that's straightened out, we can move on to the next DukeCard question: Why is Duke skimming off 18 percent from each purchase, when other universities are only charging 2-3 percent?

Chris Sevick
Durham

****

Letter: With its cards, Duke acts like Donald Trump
Herald-Sun, 5 February 2006

So UNC, NC State and Elon University all have reasonably-priced debit-card programs [Herald-Sun, Jan. 29] that provide students with a wider range of choices, local merchants with more customers and state governments with more tax revenues.

Duke, which is considerably more well endowed than any of those institutions, apparently gouges both their students and the local merchants while accepting the two-fold subsidy we taxpayers give them as an educational institution: Tax breaks for donors to the university and a pass on the payment of property and sales taxes.

Looks like they want it both ways: To be considered needy, do-gooder education providers when it comes to claiming a public subsidy, while playing aggressive, private sector-style entrepreneurs when it comes to economic relations with the surrounding town.

No one is suggesting that educational institutions shouldn't get a tax break. But Duke should leave the Trump/Gates tactics to the true private sector and be more generous with the fruits of the community's investment.

Tom Clark
Durham

****   

"My assumption has been that it's a choice Duke has made to keep all its transactions on campus."
-Tom Campbell, Ninth Street merchant

'DukeCard' ruling on hold
Herald-Sun, 29 January 2006

Duke still has made no decision on a request last fall to allow students to use their university spending accounts for purchases off campus.

At other universities, however, the arrangement is common. And it is much less costly than the 18 percent commission Duke charges in its program that is now limited to restaurant deliveries to campus.

Duke also charges the restaurants about $1,200 in set-up fees.

Elon University near Burlington, on the other hand, has set-up charges and commissions less than one-third that amount for 38 participating off-campus merchants. The businesses, moreover, extend beyond food to include fitness gyms, auto-parts stores and an eye center.

Transactions on both Duke's DukeCard and the Phoenix Card issued at Elon are administered by Blackboard, the education-support company best known for its software with which teachers post course materials for their students on computer systems.

At both universities, as at most institutions, the cards double as a student ID that is used for other campus purposes, such as building access, cafeteria meal plans and as a library card.

The Blackboard Transaction System software and equipment is used by hundreds of colleges and universities, said a company spokeswoman, Melissa Chotiner. Both Duke and Elon manage their off-campus transactions themselves, she said. When Blackboard administers it, in an add-on service known as BBOne, fees are "less than a typical credit card," she said.

Elon University recently lowered its off-campus costs for the Phoenix Card, and more merchants signed on, said university spokesman David Hibbard.

"We're not doing this to make money," Hibbard said. "We have a good relationship with merchants in the program."

Two of the three Gold's Gym locations Matt Layman operates in Burlington began accepting the Phoenix Card two years ago. Earlier, he said, he was skeptical about the 5 percent commission and $250 fee for each card reader terminal.

But after students repeatedly asked if he accepted the card, he signed up. Only about 10 percent of his Elon student customers pay with it, but that's still enough to make it worthwhile, he said.

On Durham's Ninth Street, Tom Campbell, co-owner of The Regulator Bookshop, said Elon's deal sounds good to him.

"I'd sign up for that in a flash," he said.

As for Duke's higher charges -- prohibitively so for him, he said -- "My assumption has been that it's a choice Duke has made to keep all its transactions on campus."

At UNC, students are issued a UNC Card with an account for on-campus purchases. If they open a checking account with Wachovia, they can have the bank's Visa Check card feature integrated into the UNC Card, in a version called UNC Card Plus.

The bank offers the option free to students. N.C. State University has a similar arrangement with Wachovia.

Duke spokesman John Burness said administrators aren't likely to change the Duke Card before the beginning of a new academic year. He said he didn't know why Duke's fees are higher and eligibility more restricted than Elon's.

"I think part of this has to do with the evolution of this system, and that's why we're looking at it now," he said.

In the fall, John Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association near Duke's East Campus, asked Duke officials to make the system, and its 11,000 cardholders, more merchant-friendly. He said officials told him they would get back to him by November.

Since then, in The Herald-Sun and in the Chronicle, Duke's independent student newspaper, the issue has been raised periodically.

On Tuesday, Schelp said he hopes administrators will communicate their plans to interested parties outside the university beforehand.

"We hope we would be able to see the rollout before it's a done deal," he said.

Burness said the university will advise merchants and students once it reaches a decision.

****

Merchants seek DukeCard review
Duke Chronicle, 24 January 2006

University officials are working on a plan to increase DukeCard flexibility off campus, but the local group that requested the review is upset with how long it is taking.

Vice President for Campus Services Kemel Dawkins said he is working with various administrators, including officials from Dining Services and the DukeCard Office, to respond to complaints made in October about the limitations of the DukeCard and the Merchants on Points program.

Duke officials said they were working on remodeling the DukeCard based on card programs at other schools, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"We are looking at options for providing additional flexibility and additional opportunities for purchases on and off campus," Dawkins said, noting that there was no specific date set for a new plan's announcement or roll-out.

"We are looking at changes to the DukeCard as part of that," he added.

John Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, claimed that the University said it would respond to his group's complaints about the DukeCard within one month from the time he spoke with Executive Vice President Tallman Trask. That conversation occurred Oct. 18, Schelp said.

Initial complaints about the current DukeCard system included students' inability to use food points or FLEX money at off-campus vendors and the high startup costs and commission rates Duke charges vendors for the Merchants on Points program.

Startup costs range from $1,500 to $3,500, and the commission Duke takes for delivery purchases can be up to 18 percent.

"It’s disappointing because [Trask] said he would get back to us but never did," Schelp said. "It seems strange because the initial response was encouraging. It's almost been an act of disengagement."

Dawkins said Trask, after acknowledging the complaints, asked him to review the DukeCard and a possible expansion of its flexibility.

Dawkins said he was never given a specific timetable for his report and he has not been in contact with Schelp.

Duke officials are looking at other campus systems — including UNC — after which to model potential changes. The UNC OneCard allows students to make purchases off campus by linking the card to a Wachovia checking account.

"Other institutions use cards in a variety of ways," Dawkins said. "We need to decide which would work best at Duke."

Dawkins said he is looking at "a variety of things in relation to those issues" of Merchants on Points and general card flexibility, but he would not limit the scope of his review to just the reduction of startup costs and fees.

One reason administrators have cited in the past regarding the difficulty in expanding the DukeCard program is the University's tax-exempt status as a non-profit institution.

When Duke students order food at Duke or through Merchants on Points, they do not pay sales tax.

"If Duke is buying something as an institution it's one thing, but individuals buying a pizza or something is another," said Tom Campbell, co-owner of The Regulator Bookshop on Ninth Street. "It should be looked at in fairness to everyone else in this community that pays sales tax."

While Dawkins works on Duke's plan, Schelp and the community will continue to wait.

"It's very clear that they know the ball is in their court and we're waiting for an answer," Schelp said. "You expect when someone says they'll get back to you that they will."

****

Duke Card blues: Merchants want rules eased for using student card to buy off campus
Herald-Sun, 13 November 2005

The way John Schelp sees it, Duke University is an island of 11,000 credit-card holders who eat, drink and shop with currency that most off-campus businesses can't accept.

"It's a captive audience you have on campus," he said.

That's why Schelp and some merchants are calling on the university to make it easier for local businesses to accept Duke Cards, the debit and meal card that's generally regarded as the standard currency on Duke's campus.

"That's almost the only thing you take out of your wallet all week," said Ian Long, a sophomore English major from California.

But Duke requires off-campus merchants to spend $1,200 in initial set-up costs and pay an 18 percent commission to be able to accept the Duke Card. What's more, only restaurants can participate and they have to deliver food to campus to take advantage of the program.

While 15 restaurants, 11 of them locally based, have signed on to the plan since 1990, Schelp, president of the Old [West] Durham Neighborhood Association, has heard others complain that the costs are prohibitive.

"It's just too much," he said.

He's pressing Duke President Richard Brodhead and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask to make the system easier and cheaper. Trask agreed to review the program, and Schelp expects to hear from him on Friday, a month from their last conversation.

But Schelp isn't just looking for financial concessions; he also wants to see Duke allow all sorts of merchants to accept the Duke Card for both on- and off-campus sales.

"This is good for Duke, it's good for town-gown relations and it's good for students," he said. "It's a win-win-win."

Duke is conducting a financial and legal analysis of its existing program, spokesman John Burness said. He wouldn't specify what aspects of the program might be tweaked.

"We have a variety of different options and no conclusions yet," he said last week. "Our goals in making whatever changes might come about are to provide greater convenience to our students while helping to encourage existing businesses closest to the campus to thrive."

Students spend about $3 million a year on food purchases from the 15 restaurants that deliver to campus as part of the Duke Card program, Burness said.

 "The feedback [from those businesses] is overwhelmingly positive," he said. Many vendors have told Burness' colleagues that "if they didn't have this relationship with the Duke Card program, they wouldn't be in business," he said.

Jimmy John's Sandwich Shops, which just started accepting the Duke Card and delivering to campus this year, is reaping the benefits, said manager Tone Gould. Half of the Ninth Street restaurant's sales come from Duke Card purchases, he said.

Likewise, Pop's Trattoria has been accepting the Duke Card since August. Even though the cost of the program is high, the extra business is still a benefit, said Matthew Bason, who owns the Peabody Place restaurant with chefs Chris Stinnett and John Vandergrift.

The order volume is currently low enough that it doesn't require any extra staff, and students using the Duke Card aren't taking up seats that would otherwise be occupied by diners paying all their money to Pop's, he said.

"We're not losing business based on it, and the business gained is business we didn't have before," Bason said. "For us, what the Duke Card offers is a little bit of an extra bonus to any night's business."

Pop's currently is filling four or five orders each night through Gourmet Dining and Bakery, an Internet service developed by Duke students that takes the orders and delivers the food to campus. Five of GDB's 11 participating restaurants accept the Duke Card; the others accept payment by credit card only.

Meanwhile, Blue Corn Café supports Duke, but its business is strong enough that it doesn't need to accept the Duke Card and pay the corresponding high commission, said owners Danielle and Antonio Rios. The restaurant's margins are tight enough without having to give a cut to the university, they said.

The financial requirements aren't the only reason restaurants don't participate. Fowler's Food and Wine co-owner William Simpson would be happy to pay the commission if dealing with Duke weren't so difficult, he said.

"We love Duke students and we'd love to be able to offer the card," he said. "But finding the right person who can make the right decision -- we've run into logistical problems."

The Regulator Book Shop also doesn't take Duke Cards, but that doesn't stop students from trying to use them there, said co-owner John Valentine.

"Students always ask if we take Flex cards," he said. "They assume we do, but the tariff Duke charges is too steep."

The Regulator sells textbooks for 150 courses and also has a good relationship with Duke's athletic department, Valentine said. Still, he'd be happier if it were easier for students to spend money at his store.

"With or without Duke, we will survive, but the more Duke we can have, the better," he said.

The perception has always been that the university replicates the community's good ideas on campus so that students have no reason to leave, Valentine said. But Ninth Street also must make itself an attractive alternative to Duke so students will venture out to nearby stores and restaurants, he said.

Long, who visits Ninth Street about once a week to eat or shop at The Regulator, said he leaves campus more often than many of his classmates. Local businesses shouldn't have to accept the Duke Card to draw students to the surrounding areas, he said, but he acknowledged it would be an effective marketing strategy.

"People feel really comfortable in the Duke bubble and aren't as willing to get off onto Ninth Street as they should be," he said.

****

Local group pushes for Merchants on Points expansion
Duke Chronicle, 28 October 2005

If the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association gets its way, students may soon have more options for food on points and eventually be able to use their DukeCards at local shops and restaurants.

Two weeks ago the association sent a letter to President Richard Brodhead with a request to lower the initial set-up and commission fees for the Merchants on Points program in order to promote more small business participation.

The MOP system allows students to have food delivered from restaurants in the local area using their meal plan food points.

John Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, contended that the current program favors larger businesses, such as chain restaurants that are better able to absorb the costs of the program. He said that if Duke was willing to lower the fees, more small local businesses would be able to participate in the program.

"It would be great for students, and it would be great for the community near campus," Schelp said.

The Regulator Bookshop co-owner Tom Campbell explained the difficulties the fees create.

"It's $3,000 to start and then there are commission fees that can go up to 18 percent," Campbell said. "We have to offer a lot of discounts, so the fees would take half our profit."

The Old West Durham Neighborhood Association also raised concerns about the students' inability to use points off campus. In the MOP system, students can only pay for purchases with points if they are delivered on campus.

"We get asked fairly frequently if we take FLEX," Campbell said.

Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst explained that meal plan points are non-taxable and thus can only be used on campus.

He added that Kemel Dawkins, vice president for campus services, is currently in talks with lawyers about the issue.

Some vendors already on the points system, however, disagreed with the association's claims. Dan Mall, Jimmy John's operating partner and area manager, said the MOP fees actually make it harder for chain vendors to participate because chain restaurants have franchise fees to pay as well.

"You can't just lower the fee and have everyone be happy," Mall said.

He added that the quality of service and ability to handle customer volume must be taken into consideration.

Wulforst agreed that quality is important in the success of the system. "If a vendor provides good food at a good price, they will get the student business," he said. "I'm all for an open market."

There are currently more than 15 restaurants participating in the MOP system. It has recently been expanded through Gourmet Dining and Bakery, LLC—a student-founded delivery company that added Pop's Trattoria, The Original Q-Shack, Dale's Indian Cuisine, Mad Hatters Café and Bake Shop and Papa John's Pizza to the system.

Overall, Schelp is optimistic about the constructive response from Duke.

"The initial news from Duke is good," Schelp said.

He spoke to Executive Vice President Tallman Trask about the issue and was told that the association would receive Duke's answer to their concerns in a month.

The interaction could represent a larger trend of cooperation between the Duke and Durham communities. "I don't think this conversation would have happened two years ago," Schelp said.

He attributed the improvement to the influence of Brodhead and Provost Peter Lange and called Brodhead "a breath of fresh air" in his interactions with the Duke administration.

****

Spreading the wealth
News & Observer, 22 October 2005

Old West Durham neighborhood activist John Schelp reports some progress in his campaign to get Duke University to cut its charges to merchants who accept DukeCards. According to Schelp, university vice president Tallman Trask has said Duke "is looking at ways" to cut the startup cost and per-sale commissions that discourage small businesses from accepting the card.

Schelp said lower charges would benefit both merchants and the students and Duke personnel who hold the cards by opening more off-campus options for trade. Trask, he said, indicated "they'll get back to me in a month."

****

"...it is far worse to keep the surrounding business in Durham at their current disadvantage and to continue to deny them business from Duke students."

Column: The dining bubble
by Elliott Wolf,
Duke Chronicle (17 January 2006)

Self-described “conservatives” at Duke are fixated on the notion that “liberals” are crowding out their ideas, as shown by the uproar over “academic freedom” and Harry Belafonte’s Sunday appearance. They might, however, want to look into something that costs each and every one of us thousands of dollars every year and flies in the face of both common sense and basic tenants of conservative philosophy:

Duke Dining

Although politicizing dining might seem an odd thing to do, so many of the issues surrounding it boil down to basic questions of government (institutional) intervention, economic freedom and government waste—things which, once upon a time, Republicans actually took notice of. The only thing that can save it: deregulation.

As you all know, at the core of Duke Dining is the requirement that all students purchase a meal plan. Freshmen are forced to eat at the Marketplace, and all other undergraduates who live on campus are required to purchase at least $1,420 in food points per semester that can only be used to purchase food and only from specific vendors.

Duke also, however, controls merchants as well, arbitrarily assessing them a portion of their revenue (and not just charging them rent and utilities) based on an owner’s investment in the eatery and a number of other factors, according to Jim Wulforst, director of dining services. Vendors are rewarded by Duke Dining for spending money on their establishments, leading to questionable improvements and a disconnect between vendor profits and student business.

Should students want to escape this system, we are heavily taxed. Eighteen percent of our points spent at Durham businesses will be recycled back into Duke (a total of $540,000 per year), according to Wulforst. This supposedly makes up for the lost commissions from points going off campus. Considering that a confidential Auxiliary Services budget presentation put all parking ticket revenues at $600,000 in 2000, it’s surprising that this tariff doesn’t earn more ire from the students.

The results of this system are far reaching, and the main losers are the students. Although Wulforst maintains that “we pride ourselves on being competitive,” students still pay inflated prices and are severely limited in our options. We cannot use the cards beyond the physical Duke “bubble,” and when we purchase food for delivery from off campus, merchants pass the commissions back to us. Although the money is used to improve eateries each year, I don’t think the freshmen now benefit from being told “Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself,” by a plasma television in the Marketplace.

Durham merchants and community members are equally upset, as shown by recent coverage in The Herald Sun. Restaurants in Durham, unlike on-campus establishments, actually do have to face the cold reality of paying rent, utilities and directly catering to customer demands. While it may seem harsh to force on-campus establishments to do the same thing, it is far worse to keep the surrounding business in Durham at their current disadvantage and to continue to deny them business from Duke students.

Given all of this, why would Duke so heavily regulate, subsidize and control everything? Duke wants to promote on-campus dining establishments and ensure a variety of options, a goal which is seemingly legitimate but could be served by less intrusive means.

The other goal is simply insulting. According to Wulforst, Duke wants to assure our parents that we actually eat, and therefore must maintain the infrastructure that exits (“bubble!”). Surprisingly enough, profit motive actually does not seem to be a significant influence.

And ironically enough, the solution to all of this can be found in our government-funded neighbor. UNC considers its students to be qualified to decide when, where and how much to eat and does not require that they purchase meal plans. Students who do choose to purchase a meal plan are subject to many of the same restrictions as Duke students (including the 18 percent tax on deliveries), but, according to Mike Freeman, director of auxiliary services for UNC, “our most expensive meal plan is $1,170 a semester.” UNC students have far more flexibility, spend much less on food and can support the surrounding community at the same time. The market will provide.

This seems to be something on which we as students should all agree. I just find it bizarre that amid the “conservative” resurgence on campus, it takes a registered Democrat to advocate free trade with the city of Durham and decry the excesses of big “government.”

Elliott Wolf is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every Tuesday.

****