YDSA rallies students for cross-campus march, protests for affordable meal plan


YDSA protestors gather outside Aoun’s office Feb. 25 with posters and a megaphone. The protestors called for the administration to take steps to make meal plans more accessible as part of the club’s No Hungry Huskies campaign. photo courtesy of Northeastern YDSA.

Sonel Cutler, campus editor

Several members of the No Hungry Husky campaign were escorted out of 716 Columbus Ave. by Northeastern police Saturday afternoon after protesting outside of President Joseph E. Aoun’s office for the administration to make student meal plans more affordable.

The protest, organized by the Northeastern chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, or YDSA, began on a snow-covered Centennial Common as temperatures dropped into the low 20s Saturday. 

YDSA chair and second-year criminal justice and political science combined major Carmen Phillips-Alvarez led a crowd of about 40 students in chants of  “Whose campus? Our campus! Whose meals? Our meals!”

The club’s No Hungry Huskies campaign began in 2020, mounting pressure on university officials to change the school’s meal plans to make them more substantive and affordable for graduate and undergraduate students. 

“As someone who has experienced not having three meals a day due to overpriced meal plans and having to switch to lesser meal plans simply due to costs, I know that a lot of students on campus are experiencing this,” said Nicole Contreras, a second-year English major. “It’s not right that you come here to learn and you have to worry about where your next meal is.”

Rowan Van Lare, fifth-year independent major and president of Northeastern University College Democrats, spoke candidly about her experience struggling to eat enough as a first-year on a 12-swipe meal plan.

Rowan Van Lare, president of Northeastern University College Democrats, speaks at the rally. Van Lare encouraged protestors to be angry, telling them to use frustration to take action. Photo courtesy of Northeastern YDSA

“I starved myself freshman year to make those swipes count,” Van Lare told the protestors through a megaphone. “I convinced myself that it was good, that only being able to eat once a [day] made me not gain the ‘freshman 15.’ But looking back, I was sick, starving and weak with hunger most days. … Northeastern should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.”

A 17-swipes-per-week meal plan at Northeastern costs $4,090 per semester. At Boston University, students pay $3,255 per semester for unlimited meals. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 19 meals per week clocks in at $3,403.50. Speakers at the rally highlighted these discrepancies, advocating for the Northeastern administration to use the university’s budget surplus to supplement meal plan costs. 

Some organizers worried freezing temperatures and the predicted snowfall would hinder attendance, but the rally date had been set more than a month in advance when club leaders began planning, according to Adrean Valverde, first-year linguistics and psychology combined major and parliamentarian of YDSA. Protesters braved the cold, bundled in hats, gloves and scarves to wield handmade signs. 

“I’m pretty cold, but I’m glad to see everyone out here,” Valverde said. “It’s really nice seeing everyone’s here to support the same cause.”

The activists began marching across campus to the president’s office, located on the sixth floor of 716 Columbus Ave. — a building also housing the Northeastern University Police Department — to deliver a printed petition to Aoun with more than 3,000 signatures calling for guaranteed food for all and an end to food waste. 

While the majority of protestors remained outside the building, five club members entered the building with 67 pages of signatures, scotch tape and a plan to tape every page to Aoun’s office door. 

“We were expressing ourselves peacefully through words, not getting in anyone’s way except for just putting a piece of paper up on a window at the president’s office, who represents us as students,” said Zi Glucksman, a second-year politics, philosophy, and economics major and lead organizer of Northeastern YDSA. “I’m glad that they really showed … who Northeastern is as an organization.”

According to club leaders, YDSA will continue to escalate actions until demands are met. 

“I know you’re all here because you’re angry and outraged … and I’m happy that you’re mad,” Van Lare said. “Huskies fighting hunger transcends politics. It transcends party lines because hunger impacts you no matter who you vote for, or where you live, and it’s here on our campus and there’s something that we can do to stop it.”