Baker, MacGregor Residents Approve of New Meal PlanBy Sarah Y. Keightley
Residents of Baker House and MacGregor House support the latest dining hall proposal from the Office of Housing and Food Services, while students in Next House are lobbying for changes in the current plan, which would close all dormitory dining halls except Baker's.
Yesterday afternoon, housemasters from McCormick Hall, Baker, MacGregor and Next House met with Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 to discuss changes in the proposal. Baker Housemaster William B. Watson said recommendations were made to Dickson, who will announce a final plan soon.
Almost two weeks ago, Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services, proposed a plan to close the dining halls in McCormick Hall, MacGregor House, and Next House and eliminate mandatory meal plans for all students.
This proposal replaced an earlier plan that sparked outrage among residents of Baker, McCormick, MacGregor, and Next. That proposal would have required them to purchase a $1,150-a-year meal plan for five commons-style meals per week, at an approximate cost of $8.21 each, according to John T. McNeill, associate director of food services.
Currently, the residents in these dormitories are required to purchase a $1,066-a-year meal plan that can be used as a declining balance at any of the Institute cafeterias. But MIT has lost money by subsidizing ARA for the losses incurred by operating the four house dining halls, including $500,000 last year alone.
Students mobilize against plan
Next House President Walter E. Babiec '94 said he held a meeting last Monday night addressing the situation for residents. About 80 to 90 students attended, he said. They discussed recommendations for changing the current proposal and improvements for Next's snack bar facilities if the current plan were to pass.
Shraddha V. Dalal '95, who attended the meeting, said, "Everybody basically felt that Next House should remain open instead of Baker." She said that residents' arguments included Baker's close proximity to the Student Center, the inconvenience of having to wait on campus until dinner time, and the need for a dining hall that serves residents of Next, New House, and MacGregor.
Expressing a common sentiment, Kathleen A. Bergeron '93 said, "Next House feels just like everybody else -- we want to keep our [dining hall] open."
According to Bergeron, most Next residents come back to the dormitory between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. People at the meeting said that they did not go by Baker during dinner hours, she added.
Dalal said another big concern was that if the dining hall were closed, many students would depend on the snack bar and delivery food for meals. "It's MIT's responsibility to provide convenient, healthy food," she said.
The suggestions for snack bar improvements were to offer healthier food, include better substitutes for a sit-down dinner, extend its hours, and offer residents access to self-service cooking appliances, Babiec said.
Dalal said that Next residents would probably support a minimum required dining plan in order to keep their dining hall open. But "if they start putting it up to $2,000 or something, there might be some uproar," she said.
However, Watson did not agree with requiring a specific segment of the student population to purchase a meal plan because many other students use the dining services.
Cooking facilities sparse
Baker President Daniel G. Sabanosh '94 said, "All the floor tutors had meetings last night, and Bakerites want the dining hall open." He added, "The dining hall adds a good sense of cohesiveness to the dorm."
Watson said that as former chair of the house dining committee, he can see the situation from two perspectives. "It means abandoning an educational policy that has served a group at MIT very well ... [yet] MIT has to run itself in a financially responsible way," he said.
"I would say that Baker and Next House are the two most likely to be financially solvent in a year or two," he said. However, if only one dining hall could remain open, there would be legitimate arguments from both sides, he continued.
The lack of cooking facilities at Baker and Next are a concern for residents there. By contrast, each floor in McCormick and each suite in MacGregor is equipped with a kitchen.
Watson said that Baker has only one kitchen. Also, there is no ventilation in the dormitory to accommodate students who would start cooking in their rooms. "We are very vulnerable in that sense," he said.
For Next residents, "part of our concern is our lack of cooking facilities compared to MacGregor and McCormick -- it's sort of hard to feed 380 students with three stoves," Bergeron said.
McCormick President Sonia Ensenat '94 said that if McCormick residents had a choice, they would rather not have their dining hall closed.
MacGregor holds referendum
Heather L. Klaubert '94, secretary of MacGregor House, said that according to a recent referendum, the majority of MacGregor residents want to close their dining hall, as opposed to buying a high-priced, inflexible meal plan. The two choices on the referendum were, "Yes, I support closing the dining hall" in exchange for the Institute expanding MacGregor's convenience store, and "I support keeping the dining hall open, but realize I could have to pay a $1,600 required declining balance," Klaubert said.
She said the $1,600 amount was chosen because the house government wanted to see how much residents would be willing to pay to keep their dining hall. Of the 190 people that voted, 151 agreed they would like to close the dining hall, while 39 wanted to keep it open.
"The people I've talked to generally don't like the dining hall because it's inconvenient," Klaubert said. Many students are in lab, at sports practice, or somewhere else on campus, where they cannot come back to eat in MacGregor's dining hall between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., she said.