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Input Needed For Improved Food Services

In an advertisement in the March 18th issue of The Tech, the MIT Food Services announced a new director, Rob McBurney, and asked for student input via electronic mail.

MIT Food Services, known better as ARA, has been out of touch with students for some time now. It's not completely their fault: students complain at length to each other, which is not an effective manner to create change. Constructive criticism to McBurney might positively influence the services provided to us.

Let's consider residence dining halls. At Boston University, the dining halls are important social centers and a good setting in which to hang out, blow off steam, and relax with friends at the end of the day. The dining halls at MIT have been closing for the past two years: this severely damages the quality of student life at MIT.

At Baker House, we have been informed that the current dining program will not continue next year. We understand that Next House and Baker House have each been losing approximately $10,000 on a monthly basis. In order to improve the Baker Dining operation by offering something that students might like, we asked for an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch at Baker House.

We helped determine the amount of sales that needed to be generated in order to avoid losing any money. For our first experimental Sunday brunch, even though it was Easter Day and the first morning of daylight savings time, enough customers came for us to actually break even. For an operation which loses $10,000 each month, we thought that this was pretty good.

Upon meeting with ARA afterwards, however, we heard that the Sunday brunch had a "negative impact on Lobdell" (as if Easter would not), and that Sunday brunches would not continue. This shows why the food services have been out of touch with MIT students: our aims are very different. The dormitories are "home" to many students here, and since Baker House does not have kitchens, we have been struggling to maintain some form of dining service.

While students are grappling with the quality of life in their home next year, ARA appears to be concerned only with the bottom line. When bean-counting becomes more important than serving the customer, something is wrong.

Companies are granted monopolies in return for providing everyone service. A useful analogy may be phone companies and power utilities, which must provide service to customers both in the cities and in the boondocks. If a monopoly fails to continue service to everyone, perhaps that monopoly status should be revoked.

If you have any thoughts on this matter, please let us know by sending e-mail to alhsu@athena.mit.edu. Rob McBurney can be addressed at robmcb@mit.edu. Let him know how you feel about food service on campus. After all, according to the ad in The Tech on March 18th, "he needs your help ... he wants your suggestions ... [and] the sky is the limit."

Albert L. Hsu '96 Per E. Juvkam-Wold '94