Editor’s note: This is an open letter addressed to President Hockfield.
I appreciate your devotion to MIT and the leadership you provide. No doubt there are many things demanding your time. I would like to suggest that the PBE issue has reached a critical point, and your brief involvement is now necessary. There is a moral obligation here to do the right thing as this is significantly affecting many lives.
The toll exacted on the PBE undergraduates and its alumni already far exceeds any supposed infraction. The real crime here is that an outrageous punishment imposed through a clearly corrupt process is being allowed to stand. It is a blot on MIT’s reputation. It is not too late to remove that blot, but it is at a point where if it is allowed to stand any longer, the stain will not just set, it will spread. I appreciate that this is a complex issue, and understand your hesitation in getting involved, but the need for action from you is clear. I would greatly appreciate your efforts on behalf of my brothers.
If you were to simply suggest that through whatever means necessary, the prior judgment be retracted and a proper process be initiated to address the alleged infraction, the lives of our undergraduates could get back on track and they would be able to start to focus again on their academics rather than having to worry about getting thrown out of their beloved home at ol’ 400.
—Daniel Theobald, Phi Beta Epsilon ’93
President and CTO, Vecna Technologies, Inc.
Proposed dining plan must be changed
The new dining plan will require students in Baker, Simmons, McCormick and Next House to pay $3,800 a year for all-you-can-eat hot breakfasts and dinners. Upperclassman can opt for slightly reduced plans. For example, seniors and juniors are judged old enough to have the option of only prepaying five breakfasts and dinners a week, for $2,900.
The current plan requires students in dining dorms to pay $600 a year for half-price dinners. The House Dining Advisory Group (HDAG) wants to change it ostensibly because House Dining currently relies on subsidies from MIT, equal to about $140 per undergraduate (of which about a third live in a dining hall). But instead of raising dinner costs a little or improving efficiency, the HDAG wants to start charging each student thousands of dollars. Students don’t want this — in a recent student life survey, about half of students in dining dorms knew about the new dining plan, and of these only 8% approved of it. Why then is MIT planning to roll out this mandatory dining plan? To look after students, those helpless adults who don’t know how to feed themselves properly.
Consider the breakfast component of the plan. I’m a freshman. My breakfast consists of healthy cereal, milk and fruit. This costs me $1 a day and a weekly walk to the grocery store. Eating it in my room is very convenient — I can wake up at 10:50, eat, and go to my 11 a.m. class. House dining breakfasts would simply make my breakfast cost ten times as much, and give me nothing extra. There is no typical case, but students get up at a wide range of times, making house breakfasts often unusable. Plus, many already have easy ways of eating nutritiously, making house breakfasts unnecessary. Being required to pay thousands of dollars a year for the option of getting early morning pancakes at House Dining is, for the overwhelming majority of students, absolutely ridiculous.
The dinner portion of the plan is also broken. Already, nearly all students lose money on the $600 plan, because they sometimes prefer to eat at their FSILG, prepare food themselves, or go out and eat somewhere exciting. The new plan would simply add on a couple thousand dollars to the money students are already losing, or make them eat worse food.
HDAG should force the catering companies that provide house dining to conform to student interests, not the other way around.
—Nils Molina ’14