ARA not invited back: Maguire:
board plan, contract will change
By Prabhat Mehta
MIT will not invite its current food service contractor, ARA, back after its five-year contract expires at the end of the current academic year, Director of Housing and Food Services Lawrence E. Maguire announced yesterday.
"It's time to change the MIT Board Plan and integrate it with a new profit and loss food service contract to produce a food service system that can work at MIT," Maguire wrote in a letter addressed to Undergraduate Association Committee on Food Services Chair Paul L. Antico '91.
The decision to seek outside bids for the next contract comes after almost a year of deliberation by Antico's committee and private meetings between Antico and Maguire, and marks a major change in the way MIT will handle its food services.
In an interview yesterday, Maguire said MIT will no longer bear the losses of its outside contractor, and will instead devise a profit-loss scheme allowing the contractor to take in profits while assuming the risk of bearing losses as well.
Under the current system, ARA has provided food service without bearing any cost risk. This has resulted in million-dollar losses in every one of the four years ARA has been here. Last year's losses have been estimated at over $1.8 million, an all-time high.
ARA was the first outside contractor in recent years. Before the 1986-87 school year, MIT operated food services itself. Annual losses in the four years preceding ARA were stable at slightly under $600,000.
would require meal plans
In a preliminary proposal for a new board plan, Associate Director of Food Services John T. McNeill recommended all undergraduates residing in Institute dormitories be eventually required to take on meal plans of the magnitude of the current minimum house plans. Currently, only students living in dormitories with cafeterias are required to subscribe to a house plan.
McNeill's proposal also calls for price increases of 25 percent next year and 15 percent over the following three academic years. Next year's minimum plan, which all freshmen in dormitories would have to take in either a "meals per week" or declining balance scheme, would cost $1835.
The proposal would grandfather all current students, and would therefore require four years to fully implement. Figures provided in the proposal predict declining losses until the fifth year, when a small profit may be realized.
Antico called McNeill's proposal a "Tinker Toy," which would now have to be "molded and reformed" by students and administrators to take into account financial constraints and student demands.
According to Maguire and
Antico, the housing and food services office will now work with the UA food services committee to devise a new board plan by late February of next year. Once that is completed and the contract is drawn, bids will be taken from any interested caterer, including ARA.
A committee formed of three students (two undergraduates and one graduate student), three administrators and a representative from the housing and food services will then advise Maguire on which bid to take.
Student response to the preliminary proposal has already been profuse. Many students attended yesterday's UA Council meeting to discuss the plan with Antico after reading rumors over Project Athena early yesterday morning about a mandatory minimum meal plan. Antico said the UA received 125 e-mail messages yesterday criticizing the idea of mandatory meal plan. [See story on UA Council meeting, page 2.]