Committee to Examine Campus Dining ServiceBy A. Arif Husain
In response to mounting student dissatisfaction with campus food services, a new committee is being established to develop a "strategic plan for improving food services," said John S. Hollywood '96, chair of the Undergraduate Association Committee on Student Life.
The committee will work with Aramark, MIT's contracted food service provider, to make major structural changes to food services, Hollywood said.
The formation of the Committee on Campus Dining was suggested after the preliminary findings of a survey taken by the UA Committee on Student Life showed that only 4 percent of respondents were satisfied with current offerings.
The major goals of the new committee will be to give students a voice in decisions and to make specific suggestions for improvement, Hollywood said.
The exact composition of the committee will be decided Monday, Hollywood said. Tentatively, the committee will include Hollywood, Aramark General Manager Robert McBurney, Assistant General Manager Elizabeth Emery, and representatives from each dormitory.
"The critical factor here is the customer," McBurney said. "Customer comments, feedback, suggestions, gripes, or complaints are the medium in which information is passed. The committee can and will be the way to ensure that all such information is gathered, communicated, and acted upon officially."
The Committee on Dining will examine all aspects of current food services, exploring options like re-opening some of the residence dining halls, Hollywood said.
Re-opening dining halls would not make sense financially unless a mandatory meal plan is re-instated, according to Associate Director of Housing and Food Services John T. MacNeill. Since many students are opposed to a mandatory plan, MacNeill does not believe reopening dining halls is a viable solution.
"We have to figure out a way to try and please everybody without making anyone required to have to go back to their dorm for a meal," MacNeill said.
Hollywood hopes the committee will be able to address the varied needs of students.
"I'd like to see cafeterias in the dorms," said Nikhil N. Batra '98.
Another student, Cuiling Gong G liked the convenience of Lobdell's Food Court. "I think this area is very convenient and close to our offices," she said.
Roberto C. De Leon '96 felt a mandatory meal plan would be unsuccessful. "A lot of people like to cook. They would oppose [the plan]," he said.
Future of Aramark
A pending issue in the resolution of a new campus food plan is the role of Aramark. Currently, Aramark is up for review in the fourth year of its five-year contract with MIT, MacNeill said. The new committee will consider replacing Aramark, MacNeill said.
"I would like to personally give [Aramark] an opportunity to see if they can't meet the demands and needs of an MIT customer," MacNeill said. "I certainly think they can."
Aramark is responsible for implementation, Emery said, while major decisions are made by housing and food services. "Aramark is willing to do whatever the Institute asks us to do. We are more than willing to jump on any suggestions or input from the students," she said.
MacNeill said he is opposed to a change just for the sake of change. But if the committee decides that a replacement for Aramark is in order, many other companies are available, MacNeill said.
"This advisory board is a great idea," Emery said. "Anything that gives us feedback is absolutely what we're looking for."