The implementation of the new House Dining Program in Fall 2011 was one of the most controversial changes to undergraduate student life in recent MIT history.
Since the plan’s inception, students and administration have clashed over issues such as price, flexibility, and the role of student input in making the final decision. Students wondered about the impact of the dining plan on MIT culture, while administrators said the plan would put MIT dining on par with plans of peer universities and reduce dining’s $600,000 annual deficit.
Now, a year and a half later, we revisit the issue. How satisfied are students with dining? And given that dining is here to stay, how can students and administration best work together to design a suitable system?
Although Residential Life and Dining (RL&D) is not planning to comprehensively evaluate dining until 2014, in the meantime, we urge the House Dining Committee (HDC) and members of the administration to actively seek student input on issues that can be — or should be — promptly addressed. To this end, we encourage the administration to open multiple channels for regular student involvement; for example, an online idea bank or forums held at individual dorms. In the short-term, changes that could quickly improve the dining experience can go a long way.
To the undergrads: Remember that you are the primary consumer of the dining plan. Demand a bigger voice and a larger seat at the table. If you are dissatisfied with dining, explain your specific concerns so that when you’re heard, HDC and RL&D will know what the actual issue is. Fill out the comment cards, but consider reaching out directly to the relevant people: your dorm’s dining chairs, your housemasters, and other members of HDC.
We encourage all parties involved to try to understand the reasoning behind each other’s decisions and perspectives. Beyond just making your opinion heard, future success of the dining plan depends on a thoughtful collaboration between all parties in which everyone understands each other’s limitations, motivations, and goals.