New Proposal Closes Dorm Dining HallsBy Hyun Soo Kim
Associate News Editor
In the face of strong student opposition, the Office of Housing and Food Services scrapped its recent dining hall proposal in favor of a new plan that will close the dining halls at McCormick Hall, MacGregor House, and Next House and eliminate mandatory meal plans for all students.
"I am recommending that MIT move to a completely voluntary food service system on campus starting next fall," said Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services, in a memo to dormitory presidents.
In a meeting last evening with representatives from McCormick, MacGregor, and Burton House, Maguire said, "We needed to go to a new mind-set. We listened carefully to student input, and this is what we decided to do."
The previous proposal had sparked outrage among residents of Baker, McCormick, MacGregor, and Next. They would have had to purchase a $1,150-a-year meal plan for five commons-style meals per week, at an approximate cost of $8.21 per meal, according to John T. McNeill, associate director of food services.
"Given the choice between this plan and the old house dining plan, I'd prefer this one," said Yuna Huh '96, a MacGregor resident.
Maguire added, "Of all the ideas we had, no one has come up with a better idea than this and I hope [Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56] will back it." Dickson will consider this plan and decide by Wednesday whether to recommend it to the Academic Council.
Maguire said the plan is still flexible and that he is open to input from students. In his memo, he said that the Department of Housing and Food Services would welcome other financially feasible plans to keep additional dining halls open.
He also said he would entertain proposals on how to use the space the dining halls once occupied. Proposals will be evaluated by the food services office, student representatives and house-masters of each house.
Details of new dining plan
The new proposal resulted from recommendations made by students at the Undergraduate Association Council meeting two weeks ago and from the surveys and petitions that were received, said Maguire.
"It's exactly what the students want -- a voluntary plan, giving them freedom of choice," said Kenneth R. Wisentaner, associate director of housing and food services.
Meal plans will still be available to students who want to purchase them, Maguire said.
"We will change the meal plan to suit whatever anyone wants. It's obviously in our best interests to have what the customer wants," said Alan Leo, general manager of food services.
"Baker House will probably be a la carte. We'll look at proposals that make it financially self-sustaining," Maguire said.
The Baker dining hall was selected to remain open because of its location and facilities. "It's the right place for the flow of students. Also, it has the most limited facilities for students to cook. And it has the biggest kitchen in the back room. We'll try this, and if Baker is not necessary, we'll close it," Maguire said.
Next House also has limited kitchen facilities. Each floor of McCormick and MacGregor is equipped with kitchens.
The new proposal will cut the cost of running the four dining halls, which last year lost $500,000. The Baker House dining hall will definitely not lose as much money under the plan, said McNeill.
"Running the [food service system] on a voluntary basis is a gamble we'll have to take," Maguire said.
"It's going to help the Institute if it saves money. To [ARA], it is neither a financial gain or loss," said Leo. Currently, MIT subsidizes ARA for losses incurred by the four operating house dining halls.
Leo does not foresee any major change in food quality. "Quality is subjective. We'll serve anything you want us to at Baker," he said. Hours of operation have not been decided yet.
Reactions from students
Students welcomed the proposed suspension of mandatory meal plans. "I think that's good. If I can still eat wherever I want, it will be a good change," said Michelle M. Scheer '96, a Baker resident.
"I think it is a better idea. I know a few people who were going to leave McCormick because of the previous house dining plan," said Sandhya Raju '96, a McCormick resident. "I would go to Baker to eat, but probably make more use of the Student Center facilities."
"We have kitchen facilities so I have rarely used the dining hall, so I would like to have the meal plan taken away," said Christie S. Nelson '94, a MacGregor resident. "I only use Lobdell so I would get a declining balance because it is convenient."
Some students would like a different dining hall to remain open. "I think they should open Next House because it is far from campus," said Next House resident Wynne Kwan '95. "I personally wouldn't want to trek out to Baker. Most people would go to the student center rather than Baker because it is the same distance. The voluntary meal plan is fine, but I don't think they should close Next House. It's easier for MacGregor, New House, and Next House residents."