ARA draws criticism in finla year of contract
By Brian Rosenberg
ARA, MIT's food services contractor, has been the subject of much recent controversy, including accusations of remaining unresponsive to student complaints. Lawrence E. Maguire, director of Housing and Food Services, labeled ARA service "unsatisfactory" over the past three years.
During that time, ARA has changed general managers twice. These changes were the result of both internal ARA turnover and changes in MIT's food service goals. Alan Leo, the present ARA general manager for MIT, meets with Maguire daily to "keep score" on the dining
situation, according to Maguire.
But Leo said he was "unaware" that ARA's service had been below MIT's standards. "We continually give our best," Leo added.
Maguire, however, said that "they [ARA] have not given us the return we expected. . . [they] ran over budget." Maguire also said he had heard many student complaints, most of which centered around pricing and students' feelings that "the food doesn't taste good."
Students also complain about ARA's monopoly on campus. Elena J. Koutras '90, a student staff captain at McCormick Hall for over two years, quit because of what she described as ARA mismanagement. "I saw this place being run into the ground," she said. "My budget for the whole year was $16,000, which would cover about three-fourths of a term."
Colleen Schwingel '92 of the Undergraduate Association was denied a food waiver from ARA to serve refreshments at a UA study break in the Student Center. "As an organization that doesn't own the building, I can't believe they have that kind of monopoly," she said.
UA President Paul Antico '90 has set up a committee "to investigate the ARA situation." he said.
ARA has provided all of MIT's food services since 1985, when the Institute began the present contracting system, similar to those found at many other universities. ARA operations include the Lobdell and Walker Dining Halls, Networks Restaurant, and the dining halls in Next House, Baker House, McCormick Hall, and MacGregor House. ARA is paid on a management fee basis, meaning that it receives a two percent commission on sales in addition to any profit. MIT buys all food and supplies and sets goals for campus dining.
ARA's current contract expires in 1990, and Maguire said MIT is "considering all the options." "ARA has guaranteed us their best, and we've set our goals," Maguire said. "Hopefully the two will come together."