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ARA defends dining cuts

By Dave Watt

MIT Food Services General Manager Alan Leo recently defended cuts in summer food services as a financial decision, calling them an attempt to balance the cost of providing extended hours and wider menu choices against student demand.

He said that as in summers past, MIT Food Services closed most of its facilities, and cut hours at Morss Hall (in Walker Memorial) and Lobdell in an effort to control costs.

Morss, Lobdell, and Networks are open for lunch on weekdays, and Lobdell and Networks are open for dinner. But Lobdell, including the grill, closes completely at 6:30 pm. On weekends, Lobdell offers no hot entrees, and Morss does not open.

Lobdell received complaints when it offered only one hot entree per night, as opposed to the typical two or three. Food Services had already decided to add more entrees before the complaints started, said Leo.

Students have also complained about the cafeteria prices. Leo said that his office is working to compare the cost of Institute food with nearby schools and fast-food restaurants, but not all of the data has been gathered yet.

Meal price increases do not affect ARA's bottom line, Leo explained. He said that MIT determines which dining areas will be open, what services will be provided, and what prices will be charged, based on ARA's recommendations.

Leo said that while he was sympathetic to student complaints, "it's hard to provide service to everybody at every time they want it, from a financial point of view . . . if this were a free market, Walker would be closed now," he added.

Students unimpressed

by Leo's response

Some students who complained about the service cuts were unimpressed with Leo's response. "He basically committed himself to acting in MIT's financial interest," said Michael C. McCarthy G, one of the signers of a recent letter to Lawrence E. Maguire, the director of housing and food services, which protested the cuts.

Food Services has also resumed using paper plates instead of china at Morss for the summer, allowing them to save money both on cleanup and the cost of replacing china. Leo said that 800 plates, worth $5 apiece, had been lost since the beginning of the spring term.

Farhah F. Assaad G of Share a Vital Earth, a student organization working with ARA on a recycling program, was very sympathetic to ARA's problems with trying to use more china plates. "They have been extremely cooperative, extremely quick to do things, and they have not had cooperation in return," she said. "The only way this will work is if people stop treating china plates as plastic," she added.

She also praised ARA for moving so quickly to establish a long-term recycling plan. She noted that Leo "has been very responsive to our requests. We talked to them about a recycling program in January, they had a plan in place by March." By contrast, Physical Plant took nearly eighteen months to put together their own program, she added.