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Food Services Contract Extended

By A. Arif Husain
Associate News Editor

The Department of Housing and Food Services has decided to issue a one-year contract extension to Aramark, MIT's food service provider, while HFS determines "what the Institute wants in the way of a dining service," Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 said.

The need to review Aramark's contract comes as part of the start of the re-engineering of student services effort, the latest installment in the administration's Institute-wide program to cut waste and improve quality of services.

HFS Director Larry E. Maguire said that he recommended an extension of the contract to allow time for "all debates and information to get clarified [so that] we are in a position to make the best deal with a contractor."

Aramark's contract expires this June, so the extension will allow Aramark to manage food services until June 1997. At that point, MIT will choose from among Aramark and several other food service companies.

Aramark, formerly ARA, has been providing food services at MIT since 1986.

Student input to be considered

Maguire will work with the Institute Committee on Student Affairs to obtain student input in the planning process. A subcommittee on campus dining was recently formed to focus on dining, but the issue will be addressed on a larger scale by the CSA as a whole.

"We need to get clarified with a large student voice what we really want in the way of a food service," Maguire said.

The CSA subcommittee consists of three students, two faculty members, and a staff associate from the Office of Residence and Campus Activities. Committee member John S. Hollywood '96 said that the group would wait for a final acceptance by the Academic Council of the recommendation to extend Aramark's contract before exploring more dining options.

In the past few weeks, the committee has considered a wide range of dining options, including various mandatory meal plans, a house-tax raise for dormitory dining, and new food delivery and carry-out services.

Dorm dining a possibility

Among their considerations, the CSA will evaluate the possibility of reopening dormitory dining halls. Only Baker House and Next House currently have operational dining halls. Dining facilities at MacGregor House and McCormick Hall were closed in 1992 after students objected to costly mandatory meal plans. The dining halls had been suffering from several years of significant financial loss.

According to Aramark General Manager Robert McBurney, both Baker and Next dining halls are still losing money, but no plans exist to close them at this time.

MacGregor Housemaster Munther A. Dahleh characterized a dining hall as a crucial part of a dormitory's residential environment.

"It will have a strong social impact in the dorm [by allowing] students to interact in a more relaxed environment. I would certainly like to see a dining hall at MacGregor," Dahleh said.

Aramark faces the question of how to provide "the right service, in the right place, at the right price," McBurney said.

Students dislike Aramark

According to a student-life survey conducted by the Undergraduate Association last spring, nearly 60 percent of respondents objected to keeping Aramark as a food service provider. The CSA will base its considerations on such student input and will encourage students to voice their opinions.

McBurney does not foresee any major changes to Aramark's policy while MIT reviews its dining plans this year. Instead, Aramark and MITwill concentrate on gathering information and deciding what students want, he said.

"Students don't like what they have right now," but they don't know what they want to change to, McBurney said.