The Blue Ribbon Committee on Dining has been given until April to release final recommendations for dining at MIT reported Donna M. Denoncourt, associate dean for residential life, at last night’s Undergraduate Association Senate meeting.
Denoncourt and Phoenix group housemaster Suzanne Flynn spoke to the Senate about the current progress of the committee. They attempted to clear up some of the confusion after a controversial consultant’s report was leaked to dorm mailing lists last month.
The report recommended mandatory dining plans, extending dining hours and converting some dining hall to an all-you-can-eat format.
Denoncourt said that required meal plans for residents of dorms without dining halls are currently not under consideration.
She added that the committee was never planning to remove kitchens from some of the dorms. “That was never even on the table,” said Denoncourt.
The primary objective of the committee, said Denoncourt, has been to ensure students have diverse menu options and dining locations. Other objectives have been affordability as well as financial and environmental sustainability, she claimed. Its course of action has largely been based on a campus-wide survey administered last spring.
Before releasing its report, the committee will hold a two-week review period when community members can review its plans and make final suggestions. Some in attendance said that two weeks may not be enough time to consider and incorporate remaining concerns voiced by the students.
Denoncourt said the deadline was set by Undergraduate Dean for Student Life Constantino “Chris” Colombo, but that she and the committee will consider requesting an extension.
UA Vice President Michael A. Bennie ’10, who also serves on the committee, said that though additional time may be useful, the committee should finish its job by the end of the academic year. If the committee has to reconvene next year, it will be short graduating members and may waste time getting back up to speed, he said.
Some UA senators also questioned the makeup of the committee, pointing out that Simmons Hall and McCormick Hall were the only dormitories with official representatives. There was also no representation from the fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups.
UA President Noah S. Jessop ’09, a member of the committee, said that many representatives had graduated and had not been replaced. Some of those vacancies have been filled since the beginning of the academic year, but the committee has decided that membership is now closed.
Flynn said she thought the committee has received ample student input through its student members and that lingering concerns will be heard when the review stage begins following Spring Break.
“We’re hoping that when we go around to the community, that’s when things get filled in,” said Flynn.
Since the report was leaked in February, committee members have said they are committed to increased transparency. Summaries of the minutes of each committee meeting are being posted online at http://web.mit.edu/dining/feedback/blueribbon.html. All but the latest meeting’s summaries were available as of last night. The last committee meeting was last Tuesday, March 3.
When asked why the committee is not posting the full minutes, Denoncourt said committee members wanted to put the information from the meetings in an manner that is more concise, with only the main points highlighted.
The next meeting of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Dining will be this Thursday. Denoncourt said that the committee will be meeting weekly now. In the past, the Committee has convened erratically, with months sometimes passing between meetings.