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Egg in The Face over Aramark

Two years ago, The Tech denounced the decision by the Department of Housing and Food Services to extend Aramark's contract for the second year in a row ["Food Services Group Must Move Forward," Sept. 20, 1996]. The Tech obliquely hinted further extensions might be in store: "The dining services group must act now to ensure that we are not listening to an explanation for another one-year extension next year at this time."

A year later, students' worries were confirmed when HFS again decided to extend the Aramark contract, again for another year. Once again, HFS had failed to solicit bids because the food services working group, created a year earlier, was reviewing MIT's food services system. Once again, The Tech condemned the move to extend the contract, pointing out that nothing new had been accomplished ["Dining Process Must Move to Bidding," Feb. 4, 1997]. Again we expressed hope that MIT would at last fulfill the need for an improved food service at MIT, "so that starting the 1998-99 school year MIT can have something better than an unresponsive food services monopoly."

Given the track record, it should come as little surprise that this week's announcement that the Aramark contract has been "temporarily" extended for the fourth time in a row. Considering that the original contract was for five years, the first question that comes to mind is, what has MIT been doing for the last nine years?

The answer lies in the food services working group, which has been deliberating, writing, and now shopping around its ideas for a new system of competitive food services on campus. We have endorsed this proposal in the past, and we agree with the committee's conclusions.

We cannot, however, endorse the repeated and unjustified delays, extensions, and postponements the MIT community has been subjected to on behalf of this process. The system is quite simply out of control. Officials should be ashamed that so little has happened over the last nine years and that we have reached this new low in bureaucratic inefficiency.

The fact remains that MIT and HFS have had plenty of time - now nine full years - to set up a process and go out to bid. Yet MIT has lamely allowed extension after extension to run out without pushing the process forward.

Two years ago, this page jokingly noted that extending Aramark's contract year after year made it appear likely "that Aramark will continue to manage food services at MIT well into the next century." In the spring of 1998, this no longer seems like hyperbole: Aramark still firmly in place and MIT not much closer to starting the bidding process. We believe that it is within MIT's capacity as an institution to make decisions and bring about real change, but we can hold out but little hope that MIT will do better in the future.