House Dining Membership Plan Extended During IAP

Students who paid half price for meals at dining halls during the fall will also pay half price during the Independent Activities Period. MIT Campus Dining has extended the duration of the House Dining Membership, formerly known as Preferred Dining, at no additional cost to members.

The extension was announced in an e-mail sent to MIT housemasters on Jan. 10. The extension affects all members of the program, which students may opt into but which automatically enrolls all residents of the undergraduate dormitories with dining halls — Baker House, McCormick Hall, Next House, and Simmons Hall.

The House Dining Membership fee is currently $300 for Spring 2008. Members receive a 50 percent discount on most purchases in dining halls.

While a dining discount that covered IAP was available for purchase in the past through a separate membership, it was discontinued due to low interest, said Anne W. Wilson, marketing specialist for Campus Dining. In recent years, the fall House Dining Membership did not include IAP because Campus Dining wanted to reduce program costs. The current extension began Jan. 10; House Dining members who ate at dining halls during IAP before that date paid full price.

“Extending it through IAP certainly makes sense and aligns dining policy with academic policy,” said Professor Charles H. Stewart III, McCormick Hall housemaster. “IAP is considered part of the fall semester for much of what we do on the academic side at MIT.”

“It is certainly true that first-year students are increasingly required to be on campus during IAP, so having a dining membership policy that corresponds with that reality makes sense, too,” Stewart continued.

The extension to IAP originated from community feedback and low patronage at Baker House’s dining hall, said Richard D. Berlin III, director of Campus Dining.

“Customer counts are up 100 to 150 percent each night, so it appears to be a good decision,” Berlin said. “Even though we price the program for the academic year, we decided to try an experiment to see if patronage would increase enough to partially offset the additional cost to the department.”

The cost of this year’s extension will be absorbed by Campus Dining and will not affect the price for next semester, Wilson said.

Berlin said that because students responded positively to the extension, Campus Dining would consider implementing the extension in future years, although in order to fund such an extension, Campus Dining might increase the cost of House Dining membership. The amount of the increase, if any, would depend on a thorough accounting of the costs and profits of having more people eat at dining halls over IAP.

“Anything learned from this extension will be shared with the Campus Dining Advisory Board … to determine the best way to address IAP and House Dining Membership in the future,” Wilson said.