Mandatory meal plan proposal indicates larger problem
Freedom is all about allowing individuals to make choices. No other country gives as much choice to the individual as the United States. While we do rank 12th in economic freedom, America's personal liberties compared to the rest of the world are indisputable.
Enter Arizona Student Unions, the arm of the University of Arizona responsible for various aspects of campus life including virtually all university dining facilities, which is proposing a mandatory meal plan for all freshmen. For the uninitiated, this would mean that the Union would force freshmen to dedicate to spending around $2,000 worth of food from restaurants and shops associated with the union during the year. Current meal plans are accepted at "over 30 campus eateries" according to the meal plan website, but they don't include a single supermarket in Tucson, let alone any off campus location except for Boston Market (across the northeast intersection of campus) and Domino's Pizza (if off-campus delivery counts).
For any principled conservative or libertarian, the prospect is appalling. Regardless of the prospect of never getting to enjoy mahi-mahi tacos from La Salsa or the negative dietary and financial consequences, it is a blatant denial of personal and economic freedom to do what one chooses. Instead of simply improving its own food, the union instead plays hardball with individual rights.
The idea first appeared in the Wildcat in September. Not only is the attitude of the Union quite revealing, but try listening to the students the Wildcat interviewed. Biochemistry sophomore Renee Yu, a non-supporter, states that the union would need to provide better food for cheaper prices, though she wasn't sure whether she'd support the plan if the prices were reduced by half. Media arts senior Luke Howell supports the idea, stating "A lot of freshmen don't eat the way they should...Freshmen take the easy way out with fast food."
Two of the following Monday's letters blasted the plan. Kudos to philosophy senior Melissa Haferkamp, who called it "financial coercion." Public health masters student Crystal Schemp blasts the Union's claims of "healthy options." "In an attempt to eat well," Schemp explains, "I ordered a large side of vegetables for dinner. Delighted with my healthy choice, I sat down to eat and found that the vegetables were saturated in butter. Fried chicken would have been better for me."
But most revealing is the opinion of UA student regent Ben Graff, who is supposed to represent students. He calls it "a form of increased tuition" and states that "The motivation for a mandatory meal plan has to help students save money and get nutritious food." Wonderful, our student regent thinks we're stupid.
The following day, columnist Karen G. Raz opined against the meal plan...for now. She makes the point that the union needs to improve before instituting such a plan. Sound almost...Republican. Raz opines "So with freedom only minimally restricted, I bet mandatory meal plans wouldn't be so bad, especially if they force the union to improve its services for students. [emphasis added]"
The principle behind this threat is simple: convenience for the collective is worth the liberty of the individual. Without winning the struggle for the rights of the individual, there is no winning this debate. In fact, there is no winning any debate for the individual.
The lost cause of the individual is the basis of why war served the people of Iraq as her people finally saw the ballot box today. It is the basis of the founding of this country. It's own basis is God Himself. And its threats are the foundation of every bad piece of public policy on the books, every piece of flawed logic in leftist politics, and every threat to liberty in the history of mankind.
And it's this kind of threat which reigns here at the University of Arizona. It's just on a smaller scale.