The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 74.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Students Now Run Baker Dining

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate News Editor

The recently reopened Baker House dining hall, now run by a student committee, is "a model for student empowerment," according to Baker Dining Committee Chair Albert L. Hsu '95. "Students are calling all the shots," Hsu said, including the serving times, the type and variety of food offered, and the pricing of meals.

The dining hall opened Wednesday night and served about 250 students. One long-time Baker worker said that she had never seen so many people eat at Baker in one night, Hsu said.

Students formed the dining committee last February because "there were absolutely zero steps being taken by ARA to try to make Baker an efficient operation," Hsu said. "We were just going to lose the dining hall at the end of the year."

For the past several years, Baker dining was run by ARA, which manages most food service operations on campus. Baker dining had been losing about $10,000 per month which was covered by MIT, Hsu said. However, MIT would not cover the losses at Baker beyond July 1 because of budget problems, he said.

In addition, quality was low and there were a "huge number of complaints which largely weren't dealt with," Hsu said.

The committee is now focused on "molding a brand new dining operation entirely from scratch with help from MIT," Hsu said.

A new chef manager and cook were hired, and more than half of the employees are Baker residents, Hsu said. "Students now have a lot of say in the management of day-to-day operations."

Made responsive' to students

Baker dining is now "the most responsive dining operation on campus," Hsu said. "Since it's student run, we can be infinitely flexible, and we can tap students' creativity for menu ideas."

"The new chef manager and the cook know that they're serving the students, not the ARA bureaucrats" Hsu said.

"If someone complains about something, especially if enough students say the same thing, we'll be sure it doesn't happen again," Hsu said.

Additionally, students will be asked for ideas for the entrees and desserts, Hsu said. "The students need to be the creative ones in giving us new ideas."

Baker dining is "a lot better than it used to be," said Bradford D. Ricketson '97, who ate at Baker Wednesday night. Last year, "there were times I just didn't like the food at Lobdell," but there were no convenient alternatives, Ricketson said. Baker dining is now competitively priced and provides good food, he said.

Brian D. Carlstrom '95, who ate exclusively off-campus over the summer, said he prefers Baker because of "the friends and the atmosphere." At Baker, "people like to come downstairs and go to dinner together," he said. "There's always someone to eat with."

Late, mega' meals offered

A regular meal at Baker will include one entree, two side dishes, a drink, and a salad or dessert, Hsu said. A regular meal costs $6, Hsu said. Mega meals, which include an additional entree, will cost $7.

"We want to offer a $5 meal, but the cost structure is making that impossible," Hsu said. Instead, students will be able to purchase a Baker Dining membership for $30 a term. The membership allows students to purchase regular meals for $5 and mega meals for $6.40, Hsu said.

Because "nothing caters to the 2 o'clock [a.m.] crowd on the west side of campus," Baker dining will offer late meals, Hsu said. Students can call the Baker desk by 7 p.m. and have a dinner prepared and wrapped and left in the Baker snack bar for pickup until 2 a.m.

Another new feature this year is the Sunday brunch. Offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday, the brunch "is not something any of the dormitory dining halls did before," Hsu said.

Along with the main entree, a vegetarian alternative will be provided, Hsu said. "We want more than just pasta for the vegetarian option," he said, so student input will be solicited. "We're asking vegetarians across campus to give us their favorite entrees because we'll make them in Baker," Hsu said. "We want to have one of the options each night to be low-fat," Hsu added. "We're emphasizing healthy menu choices. We would like to cater to the health-conscious."