Dining Report Was Kept Under Wraps; UA To Discuss

Undergraduate Association President Noah S. Jessop ’09 announced on Wednesday night an emergency meeting of the UA Senate to discuss “concerns brought forth about the Blue Ribbon [dining] committee.” According to Jessop, members of the UA Senate and Executive Board were concerned about a lack of transparency after a student saw a copy of the independent consultant’s report to the committee on the desk of an administrator before most members of the Blue Ribbon Dining Committee were notified about the report’s completion. The students expected that the report would go directly to the committee. As UA president, Jessop is a member of the Blue Ribbon committee.

Karen A. Nilsson, senior associate dean for residential life, told The Tech yesterday that a copy of the consultant’s work, slightly revised by the firm after input from administrators, would be sent out to members of the dining committee by Friday morning. Also, although the decision ultimately belongs to Donna M. Denoncourt, associate dean of residential life and chair of the committee, Nilsson said that she “would imagine” that the initial copy of the consultant’s work would be sent to the committee at some point.

The Blue Ribbon Committee on Dining was formed in October 2007 with a charge by then-Dean of Student Life Larry G. Benedict to examine the dining situation on campus and make recommendations for changes. It is comprised of students, administrators, and an outside consultant. MIT hired an independent consulting firm specializing in dining, Envision Strategies, to evaluate potential changes to the dining system after conducting a survey and working with the committee.

The consultants’ report on potential dining options discussed by the committee was expected to be completed by early January, The Tech reported last December. However, the report was delayed, and the committee waited for the report to be finished before reconvening.

Nilsson confirmed that the consultants submitted the initial copy of their report about a week ago, and certain administrators; including Denoncourt, Nilsson, and Dean for Student Life Costantino Colombo; had a copy. Nilsson said that they were “taking a quick look at it” to ensure “the instructions [to the consultants] were followed.”

“If you had a report that came back and did not meet the requirements, you don’t want to waste everyone’s time,” she said.

Nilsson said that, after a preliminary review of the consultants’ report, administrators sent the report back to the consultants with comments that led to changes in one portion of the report. The revised report has arrived and will be sent to members of the committee by today.

The goal of the UA’s emergency meeting will be to discuss the matter and draft a bill that would address students’ concerns about a lack of transparency in dealing with the report, according to Jessop. After seeing an e-mail from Denoncourt last evening saying the consultants’ report would soon be posted to the committee’s private Stellar site, viewable to members of the committee, Jessop said he was “pleased that the Blue Ribbon Committee has been updated on progress.”

As of yesterday evening, the Senate meeting will still be held to discuss the concerns at 7 p.m. Monday, according to Jessop.