Surge in free YCMP swipes

An in-depth explainer into extra YMPC swipes and an empty-looking Harvest


Photo courtesy of Maddie Fabian

Any student who visited retail dining locations such as Blue Wall, Roots Cafe, Peet’s Coffee and more between Jan. 24 and Feb. 13 can attest to how busy these places were. Students emptied out one spot in particular, Harvest Market, and lines for specialty dining were out the door. 

Students took advantage of a new program being implemented, which gave students up to $300  using YCMP, which came to a quick close on Feb. 13. The program was set up by UMass Dining to lower student contact at crowded dining commons such as Worcester in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Photo depicts empty shelves at Harvest Market in the Campus Center. Photo courtesy of Fallon Matte

Your Campus Meal Plan (YCMP), is an off-campus meal plan offered to commuter students. If the YCMP plan is purchased in the Gold or Platinum options, it can also be used as a residential plan. The plan includes both meal swipes and dining dollars. It allows students to use one meal swipe to cover up to $10 at non-dining common eateries and pay the rest in either dining dollars or another meal swipe. 

Bart Szymanowski, a sophomore mathematics and physics major, shared his thoughts on the crowds saying, “long lines, limited services and lack of products made it difficult to consume or purchase any products; which during normal times were found in a usual surplus.”

In an interview with Garett DiStefano, Director of Residential and Retail Dining Services, he answered some questions and concerns. DiStefano said that students at the beginning of the semester tend to concentrate in the dining commons at certain times until they start to get into the rhythm of their schedules. 

For this reason, UMass Dining implemented the additional YCMP swipes as well as extended grab-and-go hours and different types of specialties held in the Campus Center Auditorium such as meals for Lunar New Year and Black History Month. He states that it was to, “really promote engagement value. You know, having some fun and welcoming you back.” 

Many students had no idea of the true intentions behind the program, even with UMass Dining making efforts to promote it on their website, Instagram, and even the official UMass Instagram.

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When asked if he thought that the program was a bit counteractive, seeing as how busy it made specialty dining areas, DiStefano replied “So the students who are going through Blue Wall, yes, we’re getting some longer lines that flow, there’s no question about it. Over the first two weeks it actually worked very effectively.”

DiStefano goes on to say, “Quite honestly, what I’m seeing now, in the last couple of days with Harvest is that we’re starting to see some areas where students are utilizing these swipes in manners we really didn’t design it to do.”

Szymanowski said, “Although intended to give breath to the Dining Commons and their workers on campus, the introduction of the YMCP plan for various dining locations proved to be unfruitful.”

To contrast, DiStefano highlighted the good that came out of the YCMP swipes, “the good parts are a couple thousand students or so who are going through Blue Wall and the other retail locations, as well as the other events that are really de-densifying, the dining commons, that’s great.” 

“The second part of it is really exposing these students who do have no additional Dining Dollars assigned to their accounts, they may now go through these locations and never knew that they existed,” says DiStefano.

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