Changes to MIT’s dining system will have to wait another few months—at least. Competing proposals released last spring from the Blue Ribbon Dining Committee and the UA Dining committee await the final report from the Institute-wide Planning Task Force before discussions concerning them can continue.
It is estimated that the Institute will release this report by the end of the month or the beginning of November, according to Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo.
Colombo said he has looked over both dining committees’ proposals and met with the leadership of the committees over the summer to review their proposals, which were released at the end of last term.
Student Life plans to meet with the housemasters of the four dorms with dining halls to hear their response to the Task Force’s final recommendations, said Karen A. Nilsson, Senior Associate Dean for Residential Life.
The UA committee is concerned with two of the Task Force’s recommendations: meal plan changes and financial aid food allotment.
According to UA Dining committee chair, Adam S. Bockelie ’11, the least popular Task Force option his committee is facing is the replacement of the $300-per-semester House Dining membership with a $600-per semester system. The $600 payment would be used as a declining balance to pay for meals, but the 50 percent discount would no longer exist.
As of last night, this recommendation had a 12 percent approval rating on the UA website, where students can give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” vote to the Task Force recommendations (28 out of 218 voted in favor; 190 against).
Secondly, Bockelie said, there has been positive feedback from students towards reducing the food allowance in financial aid from $4,510 to $3,000 per year to more closely match the average student’s yearly food spending. Students with a meal plan would still receive $4,510 yearly.
That plan has received a net 70 percent approval rating on the UA site (142 out of 202 voted in favor; 28 against).
Feedback has played an important role in the development of these recommendations. According to the UA’s updated response to the Task Force ideas (available at http://web.mit.edu/ua/docs/updated_taskforce_response.pdf), over 500 comments on the recommendations were submitted and close to 750 students gave a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” vote on at least one recommendation.
“Opposition is particularly fierce because the existing $300 system does not provide most students with an overall benefit,” the UA response said. “For most students, the $300 fee is far more than the money ‘saved’ with the fifty percent discount. The proposed $600 fee is a declining balance system without a discount, so the overall cost to students who eat in dining halls regularly would be about the same.”
As far as implementation of these recommendations goes, Colombo said, “I do not anticipate any changes to house dining for this year.”
Bockelie said that the UA Dining Committee met for the first time this term on Wednesday night, and is just beginning to define their goals for the term.