Residents, ARA Act to Prevent Closing of Baker Dining HallBy Deena Disraelly
Following recommendations made by Baker House residents, ARA is making changes in Baker dining hall services. These changes are an attempt to save the dining hall from possible closure due to revenue loss.
Baker dining hall is now offering All-You-Can-Eat meals on Tuesday nights, in response to results from a Baker Dining Committee survey. This program began last week and will run until the end of the term. Previously, the dining service offered a la carte every weeknight.
In addition, dinner hours will be extended from 6 to 8 p.m. to 5 to 8 p.m. in order to cater to more students' schedules.
"Baker House has been told for the past year that it is in danger of losing its dining hall," said Baker Dining Committee Chairperson Albert Hsu '96. Baker dining hall is currently operating in a deficit because not enough students eat there to maintain a zero deficit situation.
Next fall, MIT will stop subsidizing food service losses and will no longer tolerate a deficit. So far this year, MIT has lost $900,000 on its dining services. This is down from last year's $1.2 million deficit at this time.
"If we don't change the numbers at Baker, Baker [dining hall] as we know it right now will close," said Eddie Cogliano, food service director in charge of MacGregor Convenience, and Baker and Next House Dining. "Closing things is not the answer, changing with the times is the answer," he said.
This term, the Baker Dining Committee is planning to address these problems by launching a campus-wide publicity campaign, encouraging students - including students from other dormitories - to eat at the dining hall.
ARA responds to student requests
ARA has responded to Baker residents' requests by bringing back AYCE one night a week and offering more fresh fruit, cereal, juice, and milk.
Students have also asked for an AYCE brunch on Sunday mornings. ARA will serve a three-hour Sunday brunch at Baker on the Sunday after Spring Break, according to Cogliano.
Cogliano said that Director of Housing and Food Services Lawrence E. Maguire has asked him to "look at every aspect of this and listen to what the students want."
At the first spring AYCE night, held last Tuesday, 137 students dined at Baker, compared to the average of 110 students per night last term.
Two AYCE meals were offered at Baker during the fall term on a trial basis. The first was well-attended, but the second had a low turnout because of long lines and poor publicity, Hsu said. Also, many students had exams that evening, he said.
Last term, these AYCE nights were on Thursday, but the Tuesday nights should be better for students, Hsu said.
Cogliano has suggested the option of replacing the dining hall with a convenience store, citing MacGregor House's example. "There's no [fiscal] loss at MacGregor, so the school does not fund the loss. We need to turn Baker into this, break even or better," Cogliano said.
However, most Baker residents hope to save their dining hall rather than replace it with a convenience store.
Students offer views on ARA
Responses to the Baker Dining Committee survey included students' thoughts on ARA. One student commended ARA because "they are actually doing a very good job" compared to other schools dining services.
Another student reflected the opinions of many residents: "I feel they are failing in the fundamental task of providing affordable food service to the entire campus."
ARA administrators were surprised by the survey results, Hsu said.
"Everyone has their own view and the idea is to melt everything together to make it right for Baker," Cogliano said.
"We're making quite a stir," Hsu said. "MIT students are generally thought to be apathetic, even about things that directly affect them. But, as the turnout to help save Baker dining shows, MIT students are not apathetic, they just feel like they don't have any power, that nobody listens to them when they complain," Hsu said.
"I'm driven by the different things we can do with the students on a daily basis," Cogliano said. "It's late in the year, but it doesn't mean it's not possible - better late than never."
"We feel it's very important to Baker to have some kind of dining facility," said Adam P. London '95, Baker House president. "We don't have any kitchen facilities so this is our only option. Also, we feel it adds a lot to the cohesiveness and socialness of the house," he said.