Committee Made the Right DecisionAnyone familiar with Institute committees knows they are often out of touch with student needs. And indeed, the House Dining Committee, charged with finding a way to keep all four house dining halls open and economically viable, seemed for two long weeks as though it were destined to fit that stereotype.
Until yesterday, that is. After producing three proposals, each worse than its predecessor, the committee told the administration to keep things as they are, pending an analysis of the entire dining system.
The committee should be congratulated for telling the administration what it didn't want to hear: Dormitory dining halls are a financial burden on the Institute, and should be closed if necessary. By excluding this option from the committee's charge, the administration created an equation in which students' contributions were the only variables.
The administration does not deserve all of the blame, however. The fact remains that the committee did not realize how ill-received its suggestions would be. While they should be congratulated for their candor at the end of this process, committee members should have realized earlier on that they would not be able to solve this problem.
Dormitory dining halls, in and of themselves, are not bad. Indeed, as the administration likes to point out, they can turn a dormitory into something more than an apartment building. But when the cost of maintaining such facilities becomes unbearable, those responsible for it should realize that students value their $1,300 much more than being able to eat in their bathrobes.
The administration has a number of options to choose from, all of which have been suggested by many students over the last two weeks. The most obvious solution is to close one or more of the dining halls. While administrators might not see this as the best solution, it would certainly reduce the tremendous financial losses the halls have incurred over the last few years.
Another option the administration might explore is to let a third party, such as a restaurant, operate one or more of the dining halls. Students would enjoy the added variety, and ARA would finally have to compete in order to make a profit.
The last two weeks have been a frustrating experience, especially for those who wondered how much money they would have to earn over the summer in order to be able to eat this fall. The committee's snail-like progress toward the right conclusion is lamentable. But worse yet is the administration's unwillingness to bow to the inevitable and face the economic and social reality.