The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 78.0°F | Light Rain


Boycott Dining Services

For a decade now, MIT and the Department of Housing and Food Services have had the opportunity to reform the dining system at MIT. The Tech has thrice in the past denounced the decisions of HFS in extending Aramark’s contract. Upon this fifth renewal of Aramark’s contract -- when the Institute has already adopted a much-reformed policy with student input -- The Tech urges for a one-day symbolic boycott of MIT Dining Services.

In this latest action, MIT has clearly demonstrated that it is either unwilling or unable to support the wishes of the MIT community in the long-discussed issue of dining. If it is the case that MIT is unwilling, then students need to demonstrate that this attitude is not to be tolerated. If it is the case that MIT is unable, then there is a larger issue at hand, and students need to demonstrate that the administration must place more trust in the MIT community.

In 1995, the Committee on Campus Dining was created in response to numerous complaints about the status of dining at MIT. A survey at that time showed that only 4 percent of students were satisfied with then-current offerings.

The Institute renewed Aramark’s contract for one year to give the committee time to work, promising that dining reforms would be imminent. The following year, however, Aramark’s contract was once again renewed, and no dining reforms had been made. There were two subsequent renewals of Aramark’s contract for one year, causing further dissatisfaction among the student body.

A proposed policy for bidding was eventually ratified by the Institute last year. The draft called for the campus to be divided into two zones, with separate bidding for each of the zones. This plan was specifically designed to insure competition among dining contractors on campus, as students strongly indicated they desired such competition.

By giving the contracts for both zones to Aramark -- thereby continuing a monopoly on campus -- the Institute has waved the white flag on serious, long-awaited dining reform. After nearly ten years of often extreme customer dissatisfaction over the service provided by Aramark, and promises that significant, fundamental changes were forthcoming, the administration’s decision is a slap in the face to students.

The Tech stresses that Aramark is not to be blamed for the administration’s decision. To Aramark’s credit, they have been reforming dining, and student satisfaction has risen in recent years. Certainly, no company can be blamed for seeking contracts to further their business.

However, the current situation is simply untenable, and drastic action is needed. A prolonged boycott would be impractical and unfeasible, since many students on tight budgets and schedules must rely on campus dining for their meals. A one-day boycott is the most effective way to send the clear and unequivocal message that ignoring students and breaking promises, after almost a decade of waiting, is unacceptable. The Tech hopes a strong student government will stand up and lead the protest against the deaf ears of the administration.

The administration itself seems confused over the current dining situation, having only given Aramark three-year contracts rather than longer-term agreements, and not providing a tangible excuse for why this has happened. Is there a particular reason why the administration feels the bidding process will be more feasible in a few years than now?

MIT is in the midst of a massive capital campaign. It is not unrealistic to believe donors would be willing to give money to reform the dining services on campus.

The Institute is undergoing massive and tumultuous change in this period. If the administration does not listen to the students at these challenging times, students cannot expect any assurances that the administration will address their concerns in the future.