Dining Ideas Include $500 No-Food Option, Closing 3 Dining Halls

Two separate committees — one half-full of students, one all-student — have issued draft proposals about how to fix dining at MIT. So far, student reaction has been relatively mild.

Students are most concerned that the administration-chartered Blue Ribbon Committee wants residents of dorms with dining halls to pay $600 per semester and get a “declining-balance” dining account. Currently they pay $300 and get half off whatever meals they buy. The Blue Ribbon proposal would let students whose dorms have dining hall pay $500 and receive nothing.

The entirely undergraduate Dining Proposal Committee has also attracted concern by proposing that three current dining halls be closed. Some students who don’t like the committee’s suggestion that MIT should close the McCormick Hall dining hall soon and close the Baker and Simmons dining halls in the long term. Some students are also unsure about the committee’s proposal to build a large, centralized dining hall.

Gloria S. Lee ’09, a resident of Baker House, said that she did not understand why the Blue Ribbon proposal doubled the mandatory payments for students living in dorms like Baker House. “In exchange for what?,” she asked.

In exchange for $600, students would get $600 to spend in dining halls, money that would disappear at the end of the semester. The $600 minimum would help reduce the current dining system’s operating deficit, said Donna M. Denoncourt, chair of the Blue Ribbon committee and associate dean of residential life.

Michelle E. Marcus ’09, a resident of McCormick who was eating in its dining hall yesterday evening, said that she could understand potentially closing McCormick’s dining hall if it did not work out financially, but said that it would not be ideal. According to the Dining Proposal Committee report, the McCormick dining hall loses the most money of the on-campus dining halls.

Lee said that she was not sure she liked the idea of a large dining hall, as the student dining committee proposed. It could be “inconvenient for people,” and “the lines could be long,” she said.

Bryan A. Macomber ’12, a resident of Baker, said he thinks the idea for a centralized dining hall is a good one. He said that he likes to have “as much variety as possible.”

Christopher M. Hendrix ’12, also a Baker resident, agreed. “It seems more efficient moneywise,” he said.

“Pretty much every college does that,” said Columbus P. Leonard ’12, also a Baker resident.

Many students interviewed for this article said they cooked at home. Nicole Holm ’11, a resident of Burton-Conner, said that the proposed dining changes wouldn’t affect her, because she cooks in her residence.

The student Dining Proposal Committee included a section recommending keeping kitchens in dormitories. The Blue Ribbon committee has also heard feedback asking that they make sure students have access to kitchens.

Students meet, offer feedback

Both dining committees solicited student feedback on their draft proposals this past week. Attendance to open meetings publicized by the groups was generally low. One notable was at East Campus, which does not have a dining hall. (Kitchens were installed in East Campus and Senior House in 1983 as a result of a student proposal.)

At East Campus, the Blue Ribbon committee feedback meeting was attended by about 25 people. The Blue Ribbon feedback meeting there was held during East Campus’ house meeting.

The Blue Ribbon committee held open feedback meetings in the dining halls in Baker House, McCormick Hall, Next House, and Simmons Hall. No students attended the meetings at Baker, Next, and Simmons, Denoncourt said. Five students attended the McCormick meeting.

No students who were not members of the Dining Proposal Committee appeared for the DPC’s meeting on April 29.

People might have skipped that meeting because “students feel it’s safer because students are authoring the [DPC] report,” said Abdulaziz M. Albahar ’10, former president of Baker House and newly elected Dormitory Council president. With the end of the semester approaching, students have been busy, he said.

Students had been promised two weeks to give feedback on the Blue Ribbon report but it looks like they will receive less, said Vrajesh Y. Modi ’11, East Campus senator, at the feedback meeting in EC. That committee’s draft report was released in the evening on Monday, April 27, and the final report is due on Friday, May 8. In addition, feedback received next week, closer to the deadline, is probably less likely to make it into the final report, he said.

The Blue Ribbon committee has considered extending the time window for feedback but has not made a decision.

Both committees are in the process of incorporating feedback received this week into their final reports. Feedback to the Blue Ribbon committee can be sent to, and feedback to the Dining Proposal Committee can be sent to