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Ashdown House Launches Non-Aramark Meal Option

By Jeffrey Greenbaum


In an attempt to diversify dining options on campus, Ashdown House will open its dining hall to the MIT community on Tuesday evenings with a rotating international cuisine.

Local vendors will serve the food in Ashdown’s Hulsizer room. The dining hall will open this Tuesday with Indian food from Passage to India restaurant.

The dining plan will serve as a way of “developing a greater sense of community of the Ashdown students, developing a greater sense of camaraderie, as well as the opportunity to have a series of social events around dining,” said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict.

Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert said the plan was a “fine way to strengthen graduate community across the Institute, especially given that the dinners would be open to all.”

Aramark not involved in plan

A group of Ashdown residents formed a committee and decided that they preferred to have food from local restaurants, making this the one of the only dining halls on campus that does not work with Aramark.

In particular, the committee members decided to invite restaurants that serve international meals because “Ashdown has a significant international population ... [and] international cuisine in popular at Ashdown,” Shilpiekandula said.

In addition, the committee members selected this dining plan because “we thought that this would provide a more cultural option to the other dining facilities,” said Vijay Shilpiekandula G.

The dining plan will include Indian, Chinese, Italian, and Mexican food from Passage to India, Royal East, El Panino, and Casa Mexican, respectively.

Graduate students lack options

Currently, the dormitory hosts Coffee Hour every Thursday evening, and Shilpiekandula proposed the idea in an Ashdown House Executive Committee since there “essentially is no dining facility for graduate students,” he said.

When Lobdell closed for dinner, Housemaster Ann Orlando said that it reduced the number of options for dinner for those residents who have no time or choose not to cook.

Accordingly, the executive committee decided that it would be feasible to host a weekly dining option for its residents that would be open to the entire MIT community. This includes graduate and undergraduate students who may not live on campus. “We are hoping that on occasion members of the faculty would be interested,” Orlando said.

Spring serves as a pilot program

The dining hall will serve food for $6.00 on Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Unlike McCormick’s weekly dining option, the meal will not be conducted in buffet style.

“We had to do a tradeoff in quantity for quality,” Orlando said.

Each week the vendor will bring one meat option, two vegetarian options, a starch option such as pasta or rice, bread, salad, and sometimes a dessert so that the total meal values to $6.00.

Orlando said that the committee would like the dining plan to serve 150 people and that this semester will be a survey to see what type of people are eating at Ashdown and what they think of the dining option. The remainder of the semester will be a chance to assess what the community is receptive to, she said.