Students save Baker dining hall, start Safe Walk
By David D. Hsu
Although student activism is not as prominent as it used to be at the Institute, the last year was highlighted by student initiatives to improve student life. Concerned students worked to increase convenience and safety with projects ranging from rescuing the Baker House dining hall to creating a student escort service.
Over the past few years, several dormitory dining halls were closed because of declining revenues. Last March, Baker House residents and Aramark worked to save the Baker dining hall from the same fate. Responding to results from a Baker Dining Committee survey, the menu was changed to include all-you-can-eat meals on Tuesdays and extended dinner hours.
Still, Baker continued to lose an average of $10,000 a month, forcing MIT to decide to stop subsidizing the loss. To save the facility, Baker residents decided to run the dining hall themselves, according to Albert L. Hsu '95, chair of the Baker Dining Committee.
While Aramark has control of the facility, students have considerable freedom of management, Hsu said. A new chef manager and cook were hired, and offerings were changed to reflect students' wishes.
Baker is currently losing only $10,000 a term, and the dining hall is scheduled to stay open during February, Hsu said. Baker is negotiating to continue operating the dining hall through the entire term, he said.
"Our sales are constantly improving," Hsu said, "but we're still trying to get the word out."
Reopenings benefit east residents
After five months of delays, Pritchett Snack Bar reopened in the Walker Memorial yesterday. Aramark decided to renovate Pritchett last summer after students protested its closure in September 1993, according to East Campus President Parag Gupta '96.
Pritchett will provide both a 50s style diner and a convenience store open late hours, according to Robert McBurney, district manager for Aramark.
Despite the delays in the opening, Pritchett "gives us a late night food option," Gupta said. "We're all glad that it's finally opening."
The reopening of the Walker Memorial gymnasium in September also improved life for east campus residents.
Walker gym was closed in 1993 to prevent non-MIT residents from using the facility, said Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phillip J. Walsh. Concern that the floor might be unsafe due to the age of the building also affected the closing, he said.
After students pushed for the gym to reopen, administrators and students participated in a series of summer meetings about reopening the facility, Gupta said.
The CAC responded to student requests and refinished the floor, Walsh said.
New arrangements for gym use provide for greater safety, Walsh said. Groups who want to use the gym must reserve a time with student supervisors, he said. In addition, a student will oversee the gym during open hours, he said.
Students create new programs
As a supplement to the Safe Ride vans, the Safe Walk escort service was started last February. Safe Walk was founded by Kenneth M. Porter '96 and Susan L. Ipri G in reaction to the increase in crime on campus, Porter said.
Safe Walk is a student service that escorts students anywhere on campus, but not to off-campus locations, Porter said. It provides students with a safe means of getting to areas on campus not covered by Safe Ride, he said.
The emphasis is on "safety in numbers" and the knowledge that the escorts have a direct radio link to the Campus Police, Ipri said.
In September, Safe Walk Assistant Manager James O. Dobbins '96 said that students have not actively used the program. "Without students taking advantage of the service, we may lose our value then our funding," he said. "Safe Walk contributes too much to campus security to let it die."
Safe Walk now escorts about six people a night, Dobbins said. The program will definitely continue through the spring term, he said. "We're making a big push to get people to use the service," he said.
The Source, grocery shuttle debut
The Class of 1994 created another new service for the MIT community with its senior gift: The Source, an expanded information desk on the first floor of the Student Center, opened on Aug. 23.
The Source provides a range of services for students and visitors. The student staff answers questions, provides information about goings-on at MIT, and sells copies of various publications and tickets to on-campus events.
The Class of 1994 pledged $30,000 to be collected over a five-year period, to pay for construction of the Source's booth. Payment from the vendors who use the first floor of the Student Center will support the operating costs, said Ted E. Johnson, assistant director for programs in the CAC.
David S. Cuthbert G and the Graduate Student Council organized a grocery shuttle to LaVerde's Star Market in Medford in the spring. Frank LaVerde, the owner of the Star Market and LaVerde's Market in the Student Center, sponsored the shuttle.
Although the spring shuttle was terminated due to lack of interest, the GSC resurrected it in October. The shuttle picks up students at several MIT locations at various times every Saturday.