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All options still open in food service restructuring (1)

After reading the two articles in the last issue of The Tech regarding MIT's food service, I felt the need to add my own addendum to them ["ARA not invited back," "UA discusses food service," Nov. 30].

While I thought the articles presented the facts well, the feedback I have gotten indicates to me that much was lost in terms of describing where the process of changing the board plan currently stands. Since this is an issue which relies on student opinion, a full description of the process is essential in formulating constructive feedback which will lead towards a proposal amenable to all parties.

At the very beginning of the term, Director of Housing and Food Services Lawrence E. Maguire faced the challenge of having to develop a new food service plan for MIT. The problem, as most people know, was simply that food services was losing well over a million dollars per year while providing students with what many felt was unacceptable service.

He therefore requested that

an undergraduate committee be formed to help him solve this problem. While discussions have taken place since September,

it was understood by the committee that sometime after mid-November, Maguire would present a list of "recommendations" to Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 in order to provide a model from which students could begin analyzing and building a better proposal.

This is where I believe last Friday's articles were a bit misleading. The "proposal" that Maguire sent out is by no means meant to be the final word on this issue. He, as well as the undergraduate committee, is hoping that this will prompt a deluge of ideas which can be used to improve his "recommendations."

It is now the job of the undergraduate committee to collect student input and use it to re-design this proposal in a way that will still solve MIT's financial dilemma, but will be much more sympathetic to the varied needs and interests of the undergraduate population.

One idea which is being seriously considered by undergraduates and by the Undergraduate Association committee right now includes closing at least two, but possibly more, of the dormitory dining halls.

This plan would reduce the yearly food service deficit by approximately $200,000 per dining hall closed, which amounts to about $70 per student for all students in MIT dormitories.

Also being discussed is a "10-percent incentive plan," which would give a 10-percent discount to everyone who purchases food with a meal card. This has two positive effects in that it provides an incentive for more graduate students, faculty, and independent-living-group residents to purchase meal cards (even small ones), and would effectively charge 10 percent more to outsiders.

Finally, two other ideas being considered are creating a "tiered system" of required meal plans which would have different minimum plans for the various dormitories based on some equitable criteria (a modified version of what we have now) and setting up convenience stores at every dining hall where students could use meal cards to purchase cases of juice or soda, fruit, canned goods, etc. at reasonable prices.

Obviously, we would all like to have a system consisting of no required meal plans and quality services; however, the main point I have been trying to communicate is that we face a tradeoff between services and costs. While I have heard many suggestions as to how to improve the food service system for students, I have heard very few which also offer

a viable means of compensating for the increased costs associated with either an upgrade in service or a decline in price.

Therefore, this is the dilemma on which I, as chairman of the UA Committee on Food Services, ask for input. At a school where creativity is not a scarce resource, I feel confident that we can find the balance between what is best for us, the students, and what will solve the financial crisis of MIT's food services. I only request that everyone consider all aspects of the issue, for this is the only way we can come to a conclusion that will be acceptable to everyone.

Paul L. Antico '91->


UA Committee on Food Services->