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Loyola University Students Protest Meal Plan Changes

ROGERS PARK — Students who "are tired of being bullied" gathered at the center of Loyola University to rally against changes to the school's meal plan that could mean higher fees for some.

"I'm here today because I'm tired of being pushed around!" yelled one student, then the others repeated the sentence as a group. "I'm here because I'm tired of being bullied — I'm tired of hidden fees!"

The protest and march of about 50 people was timed to coincide with "Loyola Weekend" a three-day event for newly admitted students and their parents.

Students like Zac Angel, who will be a sophomore in the fall, say they won't be able to afford tuition and a more expensive meal plan.

"The meal plan costs more than what my mom makes in a month," Angel told DNAinfo.com Chicago last month.

Angel's cheapest option next year is to pay $1,745 for 10 meals a week during the 16-week semester. He had hoped to be able to take advantage of a much cheaper plan this year that allowed sophomores and upperclassmen to pay $680 a semester on points that could be used on campus to buy meals, coffee or snacks.

"I'm here to say I will not go away," Angel said at the rally. "We will not stop fighting this injustice."

He said the administration told him and his parents that the changes to the meal plan would not be altered.

A member of the student government said he was worried about the school's transparency when making the changes.

"We want to give them the right to demonstrate and voice their opinions," said Jane Neufeld, Loyola's dean of students, who watched the rally from a distance. "We know what they're trying to do."

She said in the 24 years she's worked at Loyola she had seen many protests — and good has come from them.

But administrators had said the new meal plans are there to stay.

Incoming freshman, who are required to live on campus and buy a meal plan, face the biggest hike over this year's costs.

In years past, freshmen, could purchase 10 meals a week for $1,680 for the semester. But beginning this fall, freshmen will be forced to purchase an "unlimited" meal plan for at least $2,275 a semester, which is 35 percent more than the 10-meal plan.

Rob Kelly, vice president for student development at the school, said in March that the university hadn't raised rates for at least four years.

He said the school has seen an influx of students and wanted to provide more dining choices, like the unlimited plans which allow students to swipe a card as often as they want at dining halls.

The Damen Student Center, which features cafes and a dining hall, opened Wednesday on campus.

"We have a lot more dining options," said Kelly. "And the students have asked for these, so we’ve responded in providing a greater variety of food and also [a greater] quality of food."

Aramark, which provides food at universities and stadiums around the world, operates the food service for Loyola.

Also in attendance at the rally was a Loyola University alumna, 67-year-old Mary Harkins, class of '69.

"It's hard enough," she said. "They all know there's not enough money for tuition. People are paying for [school] so far off down the road."