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IU Mealpoints Refund Protest
The Indiana University Mealpoints Refund Protest was a campaign started by 6 students living on campus during the spring of 1999. Its premise was based on the problem some students faced with losing their unused mealpoints at the end of the year as part of residence hall policy. Some students faced losing as many as 1000 points (worth $1000) because they couldn't use up all of their points.
Mark Krenz, who lived in Eigenmann Hall from August 1997 until August 1999, learned in January of 1999 that the mealpoints that he was unable to use before the end of the spring semester would not be refunded to him. For him this turned out to be worth around $700. He wasn't able to use the points because he held a job off campus and didn't always get the oppurtunity to eat on campus. Feeling frustrated with the mealpoints system and sensing foul play, Mark decided to meet with the Assistant Vice Chancellor for the Division of Residential Programs and Services at the time, Bruce Jacobs. Mark also decided to hide a tape recorder in his coat pocket in order to record the conversation. To his surprise, Bruce told Mark that Residence Services could refund him his unused mealpoints because of his exceptional situation (having a 30hr/week job), but that they couldn't refund every student's unused mealpoints. Mark was very disappointed with the University's stance on this and decided to take action for all students.
Mark organized a group of 6 students who managed the campaign to protest against the University. The group ran a series of town hall style meetings with other concerned students and encouraged students and parents to vocalize their opposition to the mealpoints policy.
The announcement email
In order to communicate with all students living on campus, Mark created a list of all the e-mail addresses of students who lived on campus. His method was to utilize the fact that at the time all users had a "home directory" on a central IU server named after their university username and that their username was used in their e-mail address. In order to filter out the users who lived on campus and thus would have a mealpoints account, he created a program that queried the IU online user profile website with each username and saved each username that had a phone number starting with 855 or 856, which were the on campus phone prefixes.
His generated list included around 10,000 names, which was approximately the number of on students living on campus at the time. Using his own e-mail server suso.eigenmann.indiana.edu, he then used an automated email program to send out e-mails to each student. This was largely successful and only a few students complained about receiving e-mails unrelated to their residence status. While the mass e-mail was going out, there was an issue with ident service responses from the university's e-mail server being denied by Suso's firewall. So he added the following firewall line to instantly reject the ident queries from the IU mail server instead of timing them out:
/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -s 188.8.131.52/32 -d 0/0 --dport 113:113 -j rejectlog
Once this was in place the remaining few thousand e-mails were delivered within minutes. This line has remained in future versions of Suso user server firewalls as sort of technical memorial.
The university received an official complaint about the e-mail and university IT staff were unsure how the e-mail list had been generated. It was speculated that Mark had compromised the official email list used to send official e-mails to on campus students. A student trial was held where Mark Krenz explained how the list was generated and Mark Bruhn from UITS was an expert witness stated that the e-mail didn't generate any significant load on university computers.
Mark created an online petition where students, parents and concerned citizens could digitally sign their name. Several thousand signatures were logged.
A few meetings were held at the Indiana Memorial Union, one of which was attended by Bruce Jacobs.
The final event was a protest led by Mark and a few students. It started in front of 801 North Jordan Avenue, which was the home of Residential Program Services and Bruce Jacob's office at the time. Later the protest moved to the 10th street side of the Wells Library.
Other students who were in similar situations were able to meet with RPS and also receive a partial refund. In the school year that followed started to bring about change in the mealpoints system and the University reduced the amount of points that students must buy at the beginning, helping to prevent these problems in the future.
- IDS News - Students demand refund - 1999-04-06
- IDS News - Students deserve meal-point refund - 1999-04-12
- IDS News - Meal points need to be reimbursed - 1999-04-13
- IDS News - All or Nothing - 1999-04-15
- IDS News - Web site petitions meal-point refund - 1999-04-19
- IDS News - Students use extra meal points to support local charities - 1999-04-22
- Herald Times - IU students protest lack of 'meal points' refunds - 1999-04-23
- IDS News - IUSA passes meal-point resolution - 1999-04-26
- IDS News - Equality important in refunding meal points - 1999-04-29