When Jeff Maples walked into an SGA Senate meeting Tuesday night, he wanted to start a conversation concerning a potential mandatory meal plan.
The Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration's ensuing presentation offered his email address for feedback, but SGA Webmaster Greg Billings saw an opportunity for a more direct dialogue.
"One thing UT Dining said was, 'We really want students' opinions on this stuff,'" Billings, a graduate student in business and computer science, said. "But they didn't provide any plan on how to do that."
Billings decided to create the plan himself, and on Wednesday started a website, powerut.com.
The site is simple; a message at the top of the webpage explains, "UT Dining has issued a proposal to change the current meal plans as well as add a mandatory meal plan for undergraduate students."
The PowerPoint presentation Maples delivered to the Senate is embedded beneath, in addition to a bullet point description of the proposal.
A comment log follows below, one that had gathered 130 comments and 1500 views in the two days following its inception. Posters can attach their post to their Twitter handle, Facebook page or Google Plus account. Alternatively, a poster can pick a name and write as a guest.
Billings said he personally sent an email to Associate Dean of Students Jeff Cathey Thursday night, asking the administration to consider using his platform; as of Friday afternoon, Billings said he had not heard a response.
But in an interview Friday morning, Maples acknowledged the existence of the site and said it was an option.
The comments reflect general outrage about mandatory meal plans, but Maples insisted the proposal is merely one option to help fund future dining improvements.
"Nothing has been cast in stone," he said. "This plan was just one option – I didn't mean to create this uproar."
Maples also said that the purpose of the potential change is not to fund the ongoing Student Union construction, as was implied at the Senate meeting and reported by The Daily Beacon.
The goal is to begin preparing to fund the construction of a new dining hall to go into the Gibbs Residence Hall replacement sometime in the next 10 years, as well as to help update the Presidential Courtyard Building cafeteria.
For his part, Billings said he simply wants student interests represented. Although he is the SGA Webmaster, the site was created independently.
"SGA is aware that I am doing it, Billings said, "but I'm not doing anything that they're asking me to do."
Billings said he is currently programming a transparent emailing capability to the site, going live sometime in the next week.