Final report is released for Fall 2011 dining plan

Recommendation committee will draft request for proposals from vendors

A final report on the 2010 House Dining Review was released on Tuesday, which summarizes the House Dining Advisory Group’s recommendation for the new dining plan that will be implemented in the four dorms with dining halls starting in Fall 2011.

According to the proposal put out by House Dining Advisory Group (or HDAG), a group of housemasters, administration officials and student representatives, students in the four dorms with dining halls (Baker, Simmons, McCormick and Next) will be required to enroll in a meal plan. First-year students will pay around $3,900 a year for all-you-care-to-eat breakfasts and dinners seven days a week. Sophomores (by then the class of 2014) will be allowed to choose between the $3,900 plan or a $3,400 plan that offers breakfast and dinner six days a week. Juniors and seniors will be allowed the additional option of a $2,900 plan with breakfast and dinner five days a week.

Currently, students in dining dorms must pay a dining fee of $600 a year in return for discounted meals. They are not actually required to purchase any meals, though in order to break even, they would have eat at a dining hall nearly every evening.

The report announced a recommendation committee that will take the suggestions from HDAG and write the request for proposals (RFP) that will lay out the duties of the vendor who will cater the new dining plan. The RFP will detail MIT’s unique needs and invite vendors to submit proposals to cater for MIT.

The membership of the recommendation committee is not finalized. Currently it includes the Director of Campus Dining, Richard D. Berlin III, and the MIT Purchasing Department, who are working on a draft RFP. According to Tom Gearty, Director of Communications of the Office of the Dean for Student Life, additional membership will likely include a legal counsel, the Office of Student Life, and community representation (possibly the members of HDAG). “Student voice will be really, really important,” Gearty said.

According to Gearty, the main goal of the report is to summarize progress on the contentious issue of campus dining for the purpose of the institute archives.

Over Campus Preview Weekend in April, students organized a protest in Lobby 7 claiming that the administration was ignoring student input on dining. Most protesters were from the non-dining dorms, East Campus, Senior House, and Random Hall. Some protestors were concerned that mandatory dining would drive students to join a non-dining dorm just to avoid the dining plan. Protesters are worried that this would harm the culture of their dorms. They were also worried that mandatory dining in the four dining dorms — Baker, McCormick, Simmons, and Next — will lead to expansion of a mandatory plan to the entire campus and eradication of kitchens.

Gearty noted that the personal nature of dining makes it a difficult issue. However, the establishment of a dining plan in the four dorms is non-negotiable. “If it is your opinion that there should be no dining plan, we simply cannot do anything about that,” Gearty said, adding that he would welcome input on the specifications of the said plan such as allergy needs or hours.

At the same time, Gearty tried to ease to fears about how mandatory dining would be forced upon the entire campus. “[Kitchens are] just too strong a part of MIT’s culture... There is no plan to take the kitchens out of residences that cook for themselves... it would take a long time, and take a lot of money to build a facility. We are not forcing you to join on meal plan” Gearty said.