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Dining Board Seeks Optional Meal Plan

By Brian Loux


Following massive student opposition to proposed mandatory dining plans, the Campus Dining Review Board will draft an alternative plan based on wider student involvement.

The Board hosted a town meeting on October 11, at which Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 outlined plans for expanding the Campus Dining Review Board to start a brand new dining plan with more student and community input.

“Chancellor Clay told the audience that he had set aside the five plans originally put forward that included mandatory participation,” said Kirk D. Kolenbrander, chairman of the Dining Board and special assistant to the president and chancellor.

At this meeting, “the Campus Dining Board accepted as a goal to come up with a dining plan that did not require participation,” Kolenbrander said. He said he believes the Board can still improve campus dining without requiring participation in a meal plan.

New board relies on students

The decision to expand the board to include student members resulted from public outcry following the five new meal plan proposals drafted by the Office of Campus Dining.

“To say that the community wasn’t thrilled with them would be putting it mildly,” said Laura Capone, director of organizational performance and human resources with Office of the Dean for Student Life.

Capone is helping to organize and staff the Dining Board, as well as run community feedback meetings regarding where the dining plan is headed. “I think the board is well on their way to meeting their goal,” Capone said.

The new board contains two students from the Undergraduate Association, two from the Dormitory Council, two from the Graduate Student Council, and one from the Interfraternity Council.

“There is now heavy student involvement,” said Richard D. Berlin III, director of campus dining.

Board has 45 days to design plan

Since the October 11 meeting, the Campus Dining Board has met twice. At the board’s first meeting, Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict reviewed the tasks given to the student-led group. He said that the group had 45 days in which to design a new sustainable dining system addressing goals such as nutrition, flexibility, choice, and sensitivity to pre-established dining communities, such as language houses.

Kolenbrander said that if a new plan could be not decided upon, the administration would most likely resort to a mandatory meal plan such as those proposed in Berlin’s original report.

Goals stated at recent meeting

The most recent meeting developed the drafting of the Board’s vision statement, described by Capone as “a set of operational goals” for MIT’s dining plan.

The Board used an amended version of a statement drafted by Vikash K. Mansinghka ’04, which featured the three main goals of participant satisfaction, system-wide financial accountability, and vendor financial accountability.

The portion regarding financial accountability states that unreasonable financial contributions cannot be made by MIT, and vendors must be accountable for their own profits and losses. According to the vision statement, this requires a significant number of vendors who are willing to participate. The plan is an about face from the present plan, in which Aramark is the sole provider on campus.

The Dining Board amended the plan to include provisions for protecting the communities present in the current dining system.

“There was great consensus on the vision statement, but we needed to integrate them to one draft,” Capone said.

Mandatory plan not dead yet

Over the weekend there was discussion on campus as to whether the mandatory plans were dropped, following an e-mail sent by Dining Board member Michael N. Mulvania ’03 as a summary to other IFC members.

Some students took the e-mail to imply that Chancellor Clay had decided to drop the mandatory meal plan altogether, but Mulvania later clarified his e-mail and said that nothing had been finalized.

Bradley T. Ito ’02 said that “there have been no promises made” regarding a non-mandatory dining plan. However, he noted that Clay is looking to the Board for another viable plan, and Kolenbrander is optimistic about developing an optional meal plan.

“There are currently no proposals on or off the table,” Benedict said.