Photo by Kyle West

By: Eden Wondmeneh

As a first-year student living on residence, I had to cough up an outrageous amount of money for a mediocre living experience.

Following a $600 residence deposit, residence can cost anywhere from $5,800 to $8,825, not including the additional, mandatory cost of a meal plan that ranges from $2,975 to $4,735.

Separate from the fees, incoming students wishing to have a guaranteed residence space on-campus must achieve, at minimum, an 81.5 per cent in their senior year of high school.

It’s as if an acceptance to McMaster is not enough to attend the university, with residence being the only option for many out-of-province students.

Even if you find yourself as one of the almost 3700 students living on McMaster residence, you are expected to move out promptly after your final exam in April. In fact, you are expected to leave residence by 3:00 p.m. on the very next day.

With the average cost of living at Mac being just under $12,000, this deadline does not fit with what students have paid for. It likely exists in order to stagger students’ departure as a way to prevent chaos and large wait times, but for many students it’s an impossible deadline to meet.

As it is an odd request for students to pack up their entire dorm so quickly after their final exams, students with ‘legitimate’ reasons for not being able to meet the deadline can apply for an extension.

Those that can apply for this extension are international and out-of-province students with travel requirements, those with exceptional circumstances or those with academic requirements to fulfill like a new exam or deferred lab. But even if a student has one of these ‘legitimate’ reasons, there is still a chance that the extension won’t be granted.

Ultimately, the terms of the extension application are made so that students who have assignment accommodations, need time before their new lease or sublet agreements take affect, have extracurricular commitments or have storage needs till the end of term have no options and are scrambling to find alternative accommodations.

It’s as if these aren’t legitimate reasons to need to stay in a dorm room, that you have already paid for, until the official end of term.

I am currently struggling to figure out what to do come the end of term. My exams happen to fall on the earlier spectrum of exam season, and since my family is scattered across America during my assigned move-out date, I’m stuck between an alarmingly expensive taxi ride back home or a cheaper but nightmarish, impossible GO bus trip with my 40 pieces of luggage.

My situation is much easier to deal with than those who are from out of town or students with accessibility accommodations, who need to stay in Hamilton for a few days or weeks extra.

The entire purpose of residence is to make university life, both academic and social, accessible and convenient for students; a goal that the move-out policy directly opposes.

Students shouldn’t have to request an extension at all, but for the sake of staggering departure times, students should be able to request and receive an extension for a much broader list of reasons than that which currently exists.

In doing so, McMaster can make exam season a little less strenuous for the students who paid to live on-campus until the end of term.


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Photo by Kyle West

By: Natalie Clark

In 2017, McMaster partnered with the My Lil’ HealthBot startup to provide students on campus with all of their various drugstore needs.

Stocked with Advil, shampoo and various other drugstore essentials, McMaster’s own personal care product vending machine, My Lil’ HealthBot “Marie,” located in Mary Keyes Residence, achieves a solid seven to 10 sales a week.

Two years later, My Lil’ HealthBot has expanded their market, grown their e-commerce capability, streamlined their product mix and improved their brand positioning and message.

“We have provided relief to over 10,000 university students across Canada and soon we will be launching in the United States,” said My My Lil’ HealthBot co-founder Tim Decker.

Aside from the obvious improvements that the company has accomplished, they also hope to introduce a new program to their roster.

“The only other place to obtain items sold by the vending machine are in the drugstore in [McMaster University Student Centre], which is closed in the evenings and on weekends, and the closest Shoppers for McMaster students is in Westdale or on Main Street West,” said Raj Vansia, a McMaster student who represents the company on campus.

“We hope to increase the availability of necessary products for McMaster students while still being able to provide great service,” said Vansia. “This is the main reason for us to try out the dorm room delivery pilot at McMaster, which would allow for delivery anywhere on campus within 20 minutes of any products in our HealthBots bought online.”

The My Lil’ HealthBot dorm room delivery program will be test launching on March 16 and will last 24 hours. The program is slated to gauge the demand from students to have products delivered to them for an extra fee.

“One of the benefits of our HealthBots being on campus is we provide a 24/7 solution to life’s headaches. However, what if you could have our products delivered to you in 20 mins or less for only an extra $3.99 on your order,” said Decker.

The company will be experimenting with this idea to see if there is demand to provide extra convenience to students.

“To use dorm room delivery, a student simply visits our website and ‘checks out’ normally, and for a delivery option they choose ‘Dorm Room Delivery,” explained Decker.

Due to dorm room security restrictions, products will be delivered to the lobby of McMaster residences.

The program’s trial test will allow the company to grasp how many students are interested in this new service.

“We have heard lots of great feedback from students. We are passionate about the way we have provided an option for easier access to very important products,” said Decker, who is confident about the positive impact that My Lil’ Heathbots have had on campus.

According to Decker and Vansia, My Lil’ HealthBot makes it easier for students on campus to access their drugstore needs.

“We strive to ensure that students should only have to focus on school while they are at school, rather than on how they will go about buying the necessities they need,” said Vansia.

With the vending machines already making their mark on the McMaster campus, Decker and Vansia are hopeful that the dorm room delivery program will be successful.


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Photo by Kyle West

By: Rida Pasha

McMaster Hospitality Services offers meal express plans for purchase to all students, staff and faculty. Users can swipe their McMaster University ID card to easily access the range of food choices on-campus, as well as at participating restaurants off-campus.

While this may be a convenient solution for those that want to purchase food on-campus, it can pose a problem for many students living in residence.

Each student living on-campus is required to purchase a mandatory meal plan ranging from $2,975 to $4,735. For many students who are unable or don’t prefer to cook or store food, this meal plan can be a relief.

Meal plan options range from minimum, light, regular and varsity, each increasing in price, allowing students to choose the option that best suits their needs. Each plan is suggested based on how often the student is on campus, how much they regularly eat and how much they can afford.

Since the meal plan is paid in advance, many students and parents feel a sense of security knowing that they food is always available throughout the entire academic year.

With tuition and residence fees on the rise, forcing the purchase of a meal plan places an unnecessary financial strain on students. This can create a boundary against students being able to live on-campus.

Additionally, mandatory meal plans limit students’ options to eat as the plan restricts students’ to eating on-campus with only a few participating off-campus restaurants.

While McMaster does try to offer a variety of food options, eating at the same places daily can be tiring for many students, especially for those that are on campus during weekends and only go home during long breaks.

The meal plan becomes an unnecessary hassle for those that seek to try out new restaurants, prefer to eat off-campus or even just wish to eat out less.

Looking more deeply into the structure of meal plans, the money within the paid meal plans are divided into two categories: basic and freedom.

The basic account is nonrefundable and is used for most on-campus locations. The freedom account is fully refundable and is used for specific off-campus restaurants, confectionary, personal grooming items and convenience products.

There is more money allocated to the basic account than the freedom account since students are likely to be on-campus more.

However, when the freedom account money runs out, students can’t transfer money from the basic to the freedom account in order to take full advantage of their meal plan.

This means that when the freedom account is depleted, students either have to add additional money into that account or can no longer use their meal plan at participating off-campus restaurants.

Students are then left with only on-campus food options, limiting the variety of food available using their already-expensive meal plan.

At the very least, students living in Bates and Mary Keyes residences should be able to make the decision to opt-out of mandatory meal plans, since they have apartment and suite-style rooms equipped with kitchens.

Each kitchen includes a fridge, stove, an oven in Bates, a microwave in Mary Keyes and cupboard space to store food, as well as a full-sized fridge shared amongst the roommates.

Although Hospitality Services offers a reduced meal plan for students living in these residences, the amenities provided make it reasonable for students to live on-campus without requiring a meal plan. Reduced meal plan are still, at a minimum, an added $2,975 cost.

Unlike McMaster, the University of Waterloo allows students with a personal kitchen in their residence to choose whether they would like to purchase a meal plan or not.

Following suit, McMaster University needs to consider the circumstances and preference of students by making all meal plans optional.


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Make your room feel just like home!

Family Photos

Family photos put the “family” in “jail cell”. And there’s nothing quite like seeing some precious photos of family grace those white brick walls.

A Rug or Two

It might be the fact that my toes are #blessed every morning they roll out of bed, feelin’ like they’re in toe paradise with that sheep rug heaven, but I think rugs are the most pivotally homey addition you can make.

Let there be Light

You can’t have a fireplace (surprise!), but you can add some seriously needed warmth with the right lighting. Consider buying a floorlamp because, let’s be real, no human being can function normally with the fluorescent lights often installed in dorm rooms.

Buy a Nice Lil' Cup

A mug that makes you happy is a staple for any home, so don’t feel you need to stick to the paper cups you get from MUSC all the time (as convenient as they are to defrost our hands on the way to class).

There is no greater dream than to saunter into a café and warmly greet my friends behind the counter with the words, “The regular, please.” Maybe accompanied with a knowing smile, or a sincerely friendly wink (only possible in coffee shops apparently), or even a flailing hand as they are instinctively aware of my midterm schedule and my need for a cappuccino STAT. Regardless, most students just don’t have the funds to continue dropping five bucks on a drink, or have the time to sacrifice bussing off campus only to find it’s busy, thus forcing one to lose their dignity while desperately loitering around the front door, overtly keen on gaining a seat. So here’s to every coffee shop lover out there: how to recreate the perfect coffee shop environment in your very own dorm. No need to step out your door, and no need to creep people out while staring at their seat as if it were your own.

The instinctive allure towards a coffee shop is the warm drinks that come along with it. Always perfectly made, and somehow so much more soothing than the average cup of Joe you can get from Centro or Tim Hortons on campus. But, of course, one is not always born with the talents of a barista who has had literal training towards serving you perfection.

There are two essential staples you must invest in to have any hopes of replicating the classic coffee shop taste. One: a milk frother to whip up the thickest of foam for a latté. I can’t say how many times I use mine a week (well, seven) and how many times I greet my roommates as if I were a Cheshire cat a result. Two: your happy mug. Everyone needs a mug that seems to fit only in your hands, made just for you, and that’s where your dorm/bedroom wins over a coffee shop. Scoot on over to Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters (or anywhere else closer to you – Starbucks is offering some gloriously festive numbers now) and invest in two or three really happy mugs.

The music, man. Something viagra generic about the music played in coffee shops can make you feel so much less like a bogged down college student with a pile of work that may or may not be excruciatingly boring to you and more like a British writer whose fingers just seemed to type a whole novel for them.

Generally speaking, the most productive of coffee shops don’t blast the Top 40 for its British writers as inspiration, but rather, a medley of soft tunes that set an atmosphere not quite as starkly quiet as the sixth floor of Mills and not as rowdy as the second. Let’s think Ben Howard, Bon Iver, the Cinematic Orchestra, Daughter, Rhye, and Sigur Ros. Your own room wins again over a coffee shop in that you can tailor your own playlist to the work at hand. Don’t want any lyrics? Well instead of appearing rather high maintenance and requesting the baristas to change the station for you and you only, you can just switch up the tunes yourself.

The third most pivotal aspect of a coffee shop in forcing productivity is the peer pressure. The peer pressure to be working seriously on anything at all, other than your Facebook profile, YouTube’s “Watch Later” playlist, or your apparent duty to scroll through Tumblr. The minute your browser opens one of those bad boys, say goodbye to your carefully crafted “cool, British writer” façade. Because everyone aspires to that, right?

The easiest way to slip into the nasty habit of procrastinating before you even start work is feeling as though you are wrapped up in your bed still, by which I mean, sweatpants, your pajama top, and your fuzziest slippers. But that sounds fantastic, right? Well, not if you want to maintain that coffee shop vibe. Unless you’ve discovered a pajamas coffee shop (email me immediately upon discovery). Instead, opt for an outfit you would indeed wear out to your favourite café. Points again to your room, though, because nobody will chastise you if you happen to slip into your favourite pair of slippers once dressed.


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