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Students Dislike Food Service

By Sarah Y. Keightley
News Editor

Students are overwhelming dissatisfied with food services on campus, according to a survey released this week by the Undergraduate Association.

The respondents to the Oct. 21 survey made three requests: to open Networks during the weekend, to open Walker Memorial's Morss Hall weekday afternoons, and to re-open the Pritchett Snack Bar, according to Edward A. Miguel '96, UA student life coordinator.

This semester there is widespread dissatisfaction with the food services, Miguel said. "ARA changed a lot of the hours of different dining facilities. That has caused a lot of consternation in the student body," he said.

Financial problems brought about the closing of Networks during weekends, the closing of Pritchett, and the shortened hours at Walker, among other changes, at the start of this semester. Networks is no longer open on weekends, and Walker is no longer open weekdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Of the 393 completed surveys, half were from the Lobby 7 booth and the other half were from the Walker booth. The results were broken down by where people lived: east campus, west campus, or off-campus. Residents of east campus dormitories expressed the most dissatisfaction.

The survey results were tabulated in three groups: 78.2 percent of east campus residents were dissatisfied with food services, along with 69.7 percent of west campus residents and 55.6 percent of off campus residents; 70 percent of the overall student body said it was dissatisfied.

Students make suggestions

The second part of the survey asked for students' comments and suggestions. "We asked students which of several different things they wanted the UA to push for," Miguel said.

Students strongly agreed that Networks needs to be opened on the weekends, he said. Students did not understand why Networks' hours were changed this year since it used to be crowded during weekends last year, Miguel said.

Another common request was to have Walker opened from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Miguel attributed this strongly expressed opinion to "the fact that we had a booth at Walker." People like to go to Walker to study, have coffee, or smoke, he said. It is also near students' classes, he added.

The third point students made was that the Pritchett Snack Bar should be re-opened. Pritchett's closing was the main complaint from east campus residents, Miguel said. There is "talk right now of opening a student cooperative, a student-run Pritchett."

Two other issues came up but were not as widely expressed. One was to improve the selection and quality of food for vegetarians. The other was that there should be more competition between ARA and the food trucks.

"The trucks are really cheap, tasty, efficient -- it seems like everything that ARA is not," Miguel said. Students suggested that MIT give these food trucks permits to move onto campus or near the dormitories, he said.

Survey part of meeting agenda

UA President Hans C. Godfrey '93, Senior House President Kimberly S. Hamad '94, and East Campus President Tariq M. Shaukat '94 will be meeting with Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, and Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services, within the next few weeks. Other student representatives will also attend this meeting, Shaukat said.

The UA's survey results will support a proposal student representatives from Senior House and East Campus are working on, Godfrey said. This proposal came about after a different survey and from discussions held at East Campus and Senior House in early October.

For the meeting with Smith and Maguire, "east campus problems are on the top of everybody's agenda," Miguel said. The agenda includes taking concrete steps to open Networks on weekends, to make Pritchett student-run, and to expand the hours at Walker. Hopefully these changes can be made as soon as possible, he said. Up until now, "students have gotten the raw end of deal," he added.

The idea of granting permits to the food trucks is "beyond the UA's scope," though it will be brought up at the meeting, Miguel said.

The meeting will include discussion on how to make these recommendations financially feasible. "That's basically the crux of the whole thing: ARA is a company and they want to make money," Miguel said.

"What we want to do is see what measures can be taken. A student-run cooperative wouldn't cost them any money," Miguel said. Furthermore, Lobdell Court expanded breakfast hours during the term, and ARA has not mentioned anything about losing money yet, Miguel said. The plan is to "tell them what students want and they can shift their hours around our needs," he said.