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MacGregor Considering Plans to Reopen Dining

By Hannah Hsieh

MIT is considering renovations that would bring a dining hall to the Macgregor dormitory for the first time in over a decade.

There are two options available, both of which have an estimated cost of $3 million, said Director of Campus Dining Richard D. Berlin III. The source of funding has yet to be determined, he said.

The first option involves keeping the current MacGregor Convenience Store and creating a small dining hall, while the second plan would be to get rid of the convenience store and have a dining hall that would accommodate around 100 seats.

No decision has been made yet regarding dining hours or whether the dining hall will come with the preferred dining plan.

Under both options, the dining hall would feature offerings similar to the ones available at Baker dining, such as stir fry, a deli, hot entrees, a short order station, salad bar, and dessert bar.

A dining committee consisting of eight undergraduates and two graduate resident tutors will survey Macgregor and perhaps New House, to gather feedback on the possibilities, said Macgregor President Adam V. Donovan. He said at a House Committee meeting last week, the idea of having a dining hall was well-received, though students generally did not support mandatory dining.

Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict and Berlin funded a study to evaluate the feasibility of renovating the old kitchens behind MacGregor Convenience and turning the space into a dining hall. The study was conducted by Shamut Construction, which was also involved in the implementation of the dining halls at Next House and McCormick Hall. Benedict did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

One of the main issues is whether the convenience store and dining hall can survive concurrently. According to MacGregor Housemaster Munzer A. Dahleh, many MacGregor residents would prefer to keep the convenience store, because it has become an integral part of their living arrangement.

According to Berlin, scheduling and priority conflicts that arise with upcoming Ashdown changes must also be considered, since Ashdown will also need a dining option if it becomes undergraduates housing.

“We’re all happy that the community is willing to do something like this,” said Berlin. “It’s a paradigm shift. A long time ago, the [MIT] community didn’t want anything to do with campus dining, which is why so many of the dining halls closed. Now they’re even asking for it.”

Berlin attributes the recent interest in a dining hall to an active MacGregor student government and the strong support of the housemasters.

“We’ve been pushing to bring back the dining hall ever since we’ve been housemasters,” said Dahleh, who with his wife became housemasters in 1995. “The dining hall would be a central component to having a successful living environment.” Since MacGregor is composed of mostly single rooms arranged in entries, many students cook for themselves or eat in their rooms. According to Dahleh, the main goal of a dining hall would be to draw people together.

“I go around all the entries all the time, and the possibility of a dining hall was the number one issue most students wanted to talk about,” said Dahleh. “From my perspective as Housemaster, it’s a wonderful opportunity to give us the ability to build a stronger community. The architecture of MacGregor doesn’t lend itself to much interaction between entries, so from a community-building point of view the dining hall would be a way to change that.”

The previous dining hall has been closed since 1993, when there was a dispute between students and Aramark, which wanted to create a mandatory dining plan. According to Berlin, only one third of the space is currently being used.