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Dorm Dining Strikes Deal with Aramark, MIT

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Baker House and Next House dining halls will remain open next fall as part of a new agreement between the Dormitory Council and the Department of Housing and Food Services. The new plan assures the short-term survival of the dining halls, which faced an uncertain future amid continuing revenue losses.

"Our aim is to move a lot of the dining back into the houses," said Dhaya Lakshminarayanan '96, Dormcon president. "This is part of an ongoing dialogue between Dormcon, Housing and Food Services, and Aramark [MIT's food service contractor], so we can balance financial issues and the customers' and residence halls' needs."

Starting next fall, the new plan will link the dormitory dining halls more closely with the campus system run by Aramark. This reverses moves by Baker over the past year to become more independent and to include more student control of menu choices, hours, and management.

The changes will not hurt the independence of Baker; rather, the dining halls will gain from becoming more closely linked with the larger system, Lakshminarayanan said.

Baker, under student management, cut its losses from $10,000 per month to $10,000 per term, but the reduction was still not enough, said Baker President Catherine D. Conley '96. "If we didn't break even, they would be forced to close us," she said.

By moving Baker closer into the dining system, the dining hall will not necessarily be required to break even. Rather, different parts of the system can make or lose money, as long as the system as a whole balances out, Conley said.

With a more centralized system, it becomes "less of a matter that each place needs to break even," Conley said.

"It is the best we can do under the existing conditions" to keep the dining halls open, Lakshminarayanan said. The plan is "clearly a victory for both sides" - students who want to keep dining halls open, and administrators and Aramark who want to keep a large, profitable system, she said. "It's just a win-win situation."

"It appears that they're making an effort to make more of a collaborative process," Lakshminarayanan said. "I would hope to see that maybe more could open, depending on the success of this."

Dining hall keeps dorm together

Next House will also continue to provide dining service in the new system. "What we're trying to do is improve our dining hall in such a way that students here would want to use it," said Next House President Nicole J. Digenis '96, who worked with Dormcon and HFS on the plan.

"People here are happy with the way it is now and it will pretty much remain the same," Digenis said.

While she was not sure if there was a real danger that Next dining would close in the fall, Digenis said that things generally were not working well with dormitory dining services.

"The dorm will appreciate the fact that we get to keep the dining hall," Digenis said. "Our dining hall helps to keep our dorm together."

The trickiest part of creating the plan was balancing the financial concerns with students' wishes, Conley said. "The importance of a dining hall in terms of dorm unity too often gets left out of a budget," she said.