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UA committee sends ARA ultimatum

By Brian Rosenberg

The Undergraduate Association's Ad Hoc ARA Committee will present ARA, which runs MIT's food services, with a list of necessary improvements. The list is a compilation of student complaints from "flame sheets" placed around campus. If students do not report improvement in the quality of food and service within the next four weeks, the committee will consider "taking action, possibly in the form of a boycott," said Jennifer Hamel '90, chair of the committee.

ARA management, led by General Manager Alan Leo, met Sunday with the committee. The committee discussed the recommendations with Leo, who said he would take care of all the problems, according to UA President Paul Antico '91.

Both short- and long-term recommendations are made on the list -- a copy of which will go to the Department of Housing and Food Services, which oversees ARA's activities. "The committee's purpose is to have long-standing effects on MIT's food service," Antico said. Long-term recommendations include introducing competition, reevaluating the meal plan system, increasing student input into evaluations, and lowering the minimum meal plan.

The committee's short-term recommendations fall into several broad categories. Health issues, pricing, service, and quality are the primary focus of the list. Health problems cited for improvement include the ignoring expiration dates and employee disregard for such precautions as gloves, hairnets, and hand-washing.

Concerning pricing, the list says: "Prices [should be] more in line with the quality and quantity [of food]." Specific problems cited include inconsistency in pricing on campus and exorbitant prices on extras such as lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and potato chips.

Students had more problems with service than anything else, according to Hamel. Slow service, shortages of staple items such as bread and meat during peak times, inconvenient hours, and unresponsive management are the main service complaints. Other suggestions include more efficient tray and trash disposal, fewer food fights among employees, and allowance for smaller portions, especially with regard to drinks, cookies, and pancakes.

Quality complaints in the committee's list are very specific. Real mashed potatoes, a fresher salad bar, and crispier pickles are mentioned. The list characterizes present food as too greasy, bland, and served at the wrong temperature.

The list suggests other improvements, such as donating leftover food to shelters in the area, accommodating Kosher, vegetarian, and other special diets, and reducing the number of gimmicks such as the recent "Itza Pizza" contest.

ARA has four weeks to implement the committee's suggestions. In two weeks, the committee will "begin to look for additional student feedback," Hamel said. The feedback will come from tables placed outside cafeterias or folders to collect further comments. If the demands on the list are not addressed within the specified timetable, the committee will consider sponsoring a boycott, Hamel said.