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Dining Pilot Draws MacGregor Crowd

By Hanhan Wang

MacGregor House kicked off their pilot dining program last night, a 10-week trial which will survey the demand for re-opening the dining hall in the dormitory. Based on a feasibility study conducted in the spring, a new dining hall would require a multi-million dollar and six-month renovation during which MacGregor Convenience would be closed.

The feasibility study conducted by Shamut Construction and funded by Berlin and Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, determined what renovations would need to take place if the dining hall were to re-open. The renovation would include installation of an operable kitchen, new ovens, new carpeting, and a general re-design of the facility.

About 200 students gathered in the community space next to the convenience store for their buffet-style meal of Bavarian chicken, potato pancakes, and buttered egg noodles, among other things. According to MacGregor House President Adam V. Donovan ’07, the food served last night “won’t be entirely indicative of the food that will be served” if the dining hall is re-opened. The food was sent from other dormitory dining halls and brought over to MacGregor.

“The turnout seemed really good,” Donovan said.

These buffet-style meals that cost $7 will be offered every Monday this month from 6 to 9 p.m. in the community space next to MacGregor Convenience. Dining services are open to all students, and those with preferred dining will get their food for half price.

Because many residents can save money by cooking for themselves, Director of Campus Dining Richard D. Berlin III said he believes that there is a balance between cooking and dining in the dormitory. In regards to preferred dining and pricing, Berlin said that he thinks there is “an agenda for a system that makes sense for campus, and it evolves through the years. … It’s a dynamic process over time.”

The pilot program will be reevaluated at the end of the month with feedback from students, according to Donovan. Based on the feedback, the one-day-a-week pilot may be held on a different day and other adjustments may be made for the month of November, Donovan said.

“You would want an overwhelming majority to be behind the idea,” Berlin said.

MacGregor’s housemasters proposed the idea of re-opening dining facilities to their House Committee shortly after January this year, and a dining committee was set up to look into the possibility. According to MacGregor Social Chair Joseph S. Pokora ’09, a member of the committee, the housemasters hoped that a dining hall would bring a greater sense of community to a dormitory consisting of mostly single-person rooms.

Last spring, a survey sent to all MacGregor residents revealed that about 50 to 75 percent of students who responded would use the proposed dining facilities, Pokora said. The considerable response in favor of dining led to the dining trial this month, he said.

According to Pokora, the trial serves to accurately measure the true demand before Campus Dining decides whether or not to re-open MacGregor’s dining hall, which was shut down in 1993. MacGregor Dining was shut down when students were told that they would each have to purchase a mandatory $1,150-per-year meal plan in order to keep campus dining halls open.