Susan Hockfield, Budget Cuts, and the Blue Ribbon Dining Problem

How are three of the hottest topics on campus tied together? As most of us found out recently, the consultant firm working with the Blue Ribbon Dining Committee (BRDC) published a report recommending a mandatory “nutritional” cost to all students. In fact, the only reason we all found out was because the report got leaked.

Let’s do a back-of-the-envelope calculation. MIT wants to cut 15% of costs because of the financial crisis. MIT lost on the order of $513,846 subsidizing dining this year. MIT lost on the order of $622,205 paying Susan Hockfield in 2004-05, which at a 3% simple yearly appreciation would be $678,203 today. If MIT implements the policies recommended in the BRDC consultants’ report, MIT Dining will lose $422,000 to $455,000 by year 4 of rolling out the consultants’ recommendations, instead of the current $513,846. So the consultants’ recommendations give MIT a cost cut of $91,846 at the most. This cost cut will come at an additional mandatory “nutritional” expense to students.

Susan Hockfield is committed to ensuring that students are able to afford MIT. If Susan Hockfield took a 15% pay cut and gave that money to MIT Dining, this would achieve a better overall financial result than the BRDC consultant’s recommendations (15% of $678,203 is $101,730).

Consider the following thought experiment. If all students were surveyed with the question, “Would you rather Susan Hockfield take a 15% cut in pay or would you rather pay more money for a mandatory ‘nutritional plan’?” what do you think the result would be?

In these trying times, MIT needs leadership, and we need our president to lead by example.

Vinayak Ranade is a member of the Class of 2009.