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Trepman’s statement on HDAG

I am very frustrated with the way HDAG has handled student feedback and the lack of general student input incorporated into the plan. I feel like the decision has been made, and that the administration is just going through the motions to appear as if they care about student opinion. At the recent HDAG meeting, I brought up many suggestions on how to improve the proposed plan to align better with student desires and to make it more cost-efficient. Yet these valid arguments were not even considered, and once the RFP is sent out, the plan will be essentially unalterable. A survey is being planned by HDAG, but its purpose is to alleviate student concerns rather than to get student feedback, so honestly it’s just a waste of time.

HDAG has this sense of paternalism and feels that it is their job to regulate and ensure that students eat a normal three meals every day. College students are adults that can take care of themselves. HDAG forgets about the majority of MIT that still will not be on a dining plan even once this plan is finalized. And even without a restrictive dining plan, MIT students continue to perform at high levels. (One of HDAG’s arguments is that the plan will improve academic performance). Because HDAG thinks that students should eat a full breakfast, they are requiring that all students living in dorms with dining halls at least pay for a continental-plus breakfast each morning, regardless of whether or not they actually eat it.

From a financial and logistical standpoint, HDAG’s plan does not make sense. The housemaster membership on the committee makes the plan inherently biased towards dining halls for each individual house. This creates an inherent problem with sustainability and cost because it forces students to pay the overhead costs for five separate dining halls for two meals a day, seven days a week. This requires a high level of commitment for meals in order for the dining halls to reach necessary utilization/full capacity. This limits choice, which is supposed to be one of the key principles of the HDAG proposal. In addition, with the opening of Maseeh Hall, more than half of beds on campus will require a dining plan, further limiting choice.

It has been largely argued that having house dining is important to create community that apparently, according to HDAG, these dorms currently lack. Even if MIT didn’t have an incredibly strong sense of community within houses, the fact that many students form communities through Greek life has been ignored. This plan is an attempt to create what is deemed as appropriate college culture, thereby diminishing what makes MIT unique.

—Paula C. Trepman ’13
Former UA dining chair