Committee Suggests Mandatory Meal PlanBy Reuven M. Lerner
The House Dining Committee is considering a proposal that would require dormitory residents, beginning with the Class of 1997, to purchase a $2,000 meal plan.
This latest proposal comes just one week after the committee suggested that residents of the four dormitories with house dining halls -- Baker House, MacGregor House, McCormick Hall, and Next House -- pay a $1,300 yearly fee to subsidize the dining halls in their dormitories.
After an overwhelming number of students said they opposed the plan, the committee replaced it on Friday with one that would have charged residents of Institute-approved housing -- including dormitories, graduate residence halls, and independent living groups -- an under-$100 "campus dining fee." Residents of the four dormitories with dining halls would have paid an additional $400 in return for a 65 percent discount on food purchased in dormitory dining halls.
Substantial losses at the house dining halls, which the committee had hoped to address in its proposals, would probably be absorbed by the Institute until the fall of 1996, when all dormitory residents would be on the meal plan.
William B. Watson, Baker housemaster and chairman of the committee, will send a final draft of the proposal to Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 in the near future, possibly by the end of the week. Watson was unavailable for comment last night.
Sense of community
This newest proposal came out of the realization that it was "unfair for the residents of the four houses to be stuck with the burden of the houses," said Next House President Katherine A. Bergeron '93, a member of the committee. "Our plan was to to look at the system as a whole."
"I don't know if there was any huge dissent" among committee members, Bergeron said, "but there was a bit of confusion." She added that some of the students on the committee wondered if they had progressed at all during the meeting.
Committee members agreed that the house dining halls, which have lost between $500,000 and $750,000 during each of the last five years, are an important way to foster a sense of community among students.
"A residence-based campus is what we want, where students live in residence halls and where dining in those residence halls is part of that experience," said Stephen J. Lippard PhD '65, MacGregor housemaster and a member of the committee.
Rather than address the problem at hand -- subsidizing the house dining halls -- the committee decided to look at students' long-term interests. "We don't want to move into something so quickly that it produces problems. ... We're trying to find a plan that will be fit for MIT some years down the line."
Cost is not high
While the $2,000 plan would mean an increase in many students' food budgets, it would still cost far less than the plans at many universities in the Boston area. Harvard University, for instance, has announced that it will charge dormitory residents $2,765 this fall, and Boston University charges residents of its dormitories an annual fee of about $2,500. Students at Tufts University are charged about $1,400 their first semester, and successively less each semester after that.
Not all of the $2,000 would go toward food, Bergeron said. "It's not straight declining balance. ... You'll pay $2,000 and use $1,500 to spend on food."
To make up for this difference, the committee may propose that students be allowed to mix commons and a la carte service, choosing the meals at which they would like to use each plan. However, the details of such an arrangement have not been worked out yet.
Lippard said that MIT Food Services would have to justify the extra cost through improved food and service. "The only way this is really going to work and be a real value for residence-based living on this campus is if the quality of the food is high," he said. "I think it's very important that any such plan be accompanied by assurances that the quality of the food at house dining halls be more than adequate."