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McCormick Readies For Dining Upgrade

By Kathy Lin

NEWS EDITOR

Renovations of the McCormick dining hall may begin as early as this Thursday, said McCormick Housemaster Charles Stewart III. The renovations are in preparation for next year’s mandatory dining plan for McCormick freshmen.

The dining plan, which will be similar to those currently used at Baker House, Next House, and Simmons Hall, will require freshmen to pay $225 per semester, for which they will be reimbursed with a half-off discount for each meal they buy from residential dining area, said Director of Campus Dining Richard D. Berlin III.

Others may choose to participate in the plan, but will not be required to. Currently, a discounted meal at Simmons costs $3-$4 according to the Simmons Hall Web site.

An e-mail sent by Stewart to McCormick residents on April 8 said that rather than offering just one meal a week as they currently do, McCormick will offer dinner Sunday through Thursday evenings, starting this fall.

Although construction will begin soon, the bulk of it is planned for the summer. The renovated dining room is slated to open by the beginning of September, in time for the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, said Berlin.

Major renovation in store

“The whole [dining area] will be completely renovated,” with new walls, floors, furniture, and decor, Berlin said. The new dining room, which will probably consist of a merging of the current room with a room adjacent to it, will be about the size of Baker’s dining room, he said.

“We worked very hard” on the renovation plans to minimize the noise disturbances and make sure that no “really loud” construction takes place during the school year, Stewart said.

Because McCormick has only about two-thirds the residents as Baker, Next, or Simmons, the serving area at McCormick will be relatively small. The food will consist of the “most popular” types of food out of all those served in the other dormitories, he said.

There will be three main components to the serving area: a large action-cooking station for items such as stir fry, an area with prepared items ready to be picked up, and a station for traditional hot entrees, Berlin said. In addition, there will be a large salad bar, to cater to the projected “healthier” tastes of the all-female dormitory.

The current setup for weekly McCormick dining is buffet-style, and food is prepared in a separate room.

Bon Appetit, which is currently in charge of residential and kosher dining at MIT, will also be catering to the new McCormick dining hall, Berlin said. He declined to comment on the cost of the renovations.

Dining discussions not recent

“We’ve been trying to reopen the [daily] dining hall ever since it closed,” Stewart said. Daily McCormick dining closed in 1993, when MIT moved from using mandatory dining plans toward having a voluntary dining plan.

“When [McCormick Dining] was open, it was a social and community center, and we’re trying to restore that,” Stewart said. This effort has taken quite some time “in part because we went through a phase when a lot of people at MIT didn’t appreciate the value of dining. It took a long time to get that back on track,” he said.

Over the past six years, there have been on-and-off surveys, dining committees, general meetings, and discussions at house meetings about the possibility of reopening McCormick dining, Stewart said.

Plan hopes to boost community

Though “it’s hard to get people exuberant” at MIT, there is “a lot of support within McCormick for the plans for McCormick dining,” Stewart said. This is partially because the dining plan will only be mandatory for incoming students who plan to live in McCormick.

“I hope the main effect is going to be a renewed sense of community and that the students will become better acquainted with each other,” Stewart said. Secondary benefits include residents eating better and returning home to McCormick earlier in the evening to eat, generating a more social, community-oriented environment, he said.

The dining plan has been working “very well” and students “use the discount program very effectively,” Berlin said; “They eat more there and buy more there.”

Students react to dining plan

Naoshin Haque ’06, a McCormick resident, said that she will probably participate in the McCormick dining plan this fall, because she currently uses Baker dining quite frequently. She said that the closing “doesn’t really matter to me” since it is only open once a week.

Rabia M. Chaudhry ’07, however, said that she probably will not use the dining plan because she prefers to cook for herself. She said, “the [McCormick] food currently isn’t all that great” and if it improves after the renovations, she will probably eat there sometimes.

Chaudhry said that the closing of McCormick offerings of weekly meals for the remainder of the year for renovation does not really affect her.

Monica S. Guo ’06, a Simmons resident, said “I like the system because we always have food until 1 a.m. and it’s actually really helpful.” All Simmons residents participate in the mandatory dining plan.

MacGregor is next

Discussion and a study to determine whether MacGregor House should have an active dining facility are in store, Berlin said. Whether or not the MacGregor dining hall is reopened depends on the campus needs, the physical feasibility, and the cost. Berlin said the model needs to support both students who want to eat in the dining hall and students who want to cook.