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MIT likely to renew ARA

By Miguel Cantillo

Director of Housing and Food services Lawrence E. Maguire announced that MIT was likely to renew its contract with ARA Food Services. ARA has been with MIT since 1985.

According to Maguire, relations between MIT and ARA have improved steadily in recent months. Last October, there was considerable speculation as to whether MIT would continue its contract with ARA.

Maguire commended ARA's recent effort to act on student complaints on prices and food quality. "This effort shows the extent of ARA's commitment to MIT," Maguire said.

According to ARA Manager Alan Leo, ARA has responded to student complaints brought through the Undergraduate Association Ad Hoc Food Committee. This committee took a list of "necessary improvements" to ARA last term.

UA President Paul L. Antico '91 claimed that students have expressed greater satisfaction with ARA since the UA met with them. Lines have shortened and the variety of foods has increased, he said. These improvements have been especially noticeable at Lobdell, Next House and McCormick, Antico added.

There remained some long term problems like the "excessive" minimum for the MIT house meal plan, and the feeling that the prices "are not in line with the quality of the food," added Antico.

ARA took a student survey this fall, and, based on the results, decided to make available the nutritional information of certain foods. A follow-up survey is due this spring. Leo hoped that this interaction with students will improve ARA's standing in the MIT community.

Responding to student criticisms of ARA's high prices, Leo argued that although there had been pricing mistakes in the past, ARA was now very conscious of its pricing policy. He argued that the typical board charge for Boston area colleges was around $2300 while MIT's board was only $1400.

According to Leo, ARA prices are on a per item basis, unlike many programs in the area. Leo believed that ARA's prices were competitive, even below the average for most goods.

Leo favored the idea of expanding the "commons" system, so that Baker House would not be the only house on campus with such a system. (Under the commons system, students pay a fixed price for a meal, and receive an unlimited quantity of food.) However, Leo said he has not yet looked into the matter thoroughly.

Leo blamed some of ARA's pricing problems on the excess number of food facilities in Stratton Student Center. Some dormitory cafeterias and Walker Memorial have been particularly affected by the competition, he said.