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Husein's Complaints Against Aramark Are Unfounded

Guest column by Jude Federspiel

I have watched with a certain amusement the campus discussion of the Aramark and food services issue, but the column by A. Arif Husain '97 ["Dorm Dining Must be Important Priority for Institute," March 11] has finally moved me to speak.

I work part time for Aramark. I am currently at Networks but have also been placed in Lobdell Food Court. Furthermore, I have worked for other food service companies before coming to MIT and therefore have experiences to which I can compare Aramark. I am a member of the MIT community (Class of 1997) and eat several times each week at campus dining facilities as well as off campus and in any of several kitchens where I do some of my own cooking.

Husain wrote in his opinion that "the dining system at MIT is by far the most deplorable aspect of student life." He evidences this by citing the "densely packed pages of the dining review working group's comprehensive World Wide Web site." On the contrary, a mass of information does not imply a mass of discontent. In general, it takes only a few passionately discontented people to make many people think that all people are discontented. Remember, the most vocal individuals are usually those that are the most upset.

Husain further wrote that "dining together on campus must be an objective as specific and requisite as living together." This is ridiculous. Have you ever walked into Lobdell during business hours? If you have, then you know that about half of the diners eat alone with a few exceptions from large groups that will take over a clump of tables. People are alone if and only if they want to be alone. Exactly how does Husain propose - or even imagine - that MIT can make people eat together if the campus is about half composed of reclusive people?

Husain related his experiences feeding almost solely on cereal and pasta, a task so irritating that he avoided it until his hunger was strong enough. This can only happen if one of the following is true:

1. He does not care enough about his eating habits to invest time or money into eating well, or

2. He does not have enough money to eat well.

If the second were true, we might listen to him to hear the poor man's opinion. But I would wager that the first is actually the case. If it is, why would we seek the input of such a person on dining matters?

Husain then spoke glowingly of Harvard University's "guaranteed three meals a day." This is what we refer to at MIT as a mandatory meal plan. No single dining option has been rejected by the MIT populace as completely and thoroughly as the mandatory meal plan.

Under the current system, you can eat at any of several locations at just about any reasonable dining hour and at some locations at almost any hour. You eat when and where you want. You even get back what you don't spend at the end of the year. You can eat over Independent Activities Period. You can eat over the summer. Aramark bends over backward to make sure that facilities are always open somewhere. Husain distinguishes somehow between "mandatory" and "forced," but perhaps he could clarify this for those of us that missed his meaning.

I want to say a few things about working at Networks. First, the managers there are incredible. They make amazing efforts to please their customers. They are very quick to respond to special requests, are willing to meet with anyone to discuss their gripes, suggestions, praise, or comments (most of what they get at MIT are complaints because if you haven't noticed, we are a school of professional whiners). There are customer comment boxes in every Aramark facility I know of.

Second, the managers push the workers to keep the place very clean, and everything I serve is something I would eat myself. The food is fresh, and the menu is very large for a place with the space limitations Networks has. Third, if orders get confused, the managers are quick to apologize and offer free food to keep their customers happy. Networks compares very favorably with the food places at which I have worked in almost every respect.

In closing, I would like to ask a few questions of anyone who is interested in responding to my letter or criticizing the MIT dining system as it is. Have you ever seen up close any food service to which you can compare MIT's? If you have not, your ability to objectively critique the system we have is less than ideal. Are your eating problems due to MIT's and Aramark's lack of service or your own lack of discipline or desire? Be honest. No one forces you to do all-nighters and feed yourself at 3 a.m.

To be frank, I don't think the MIT food system needs revamping. I think we just need to move on and find our next issue to whine about. I propose the lack of a campus-wide free foot massaging service. I think I've found my next mission.