Dining reform to continue

HDAG says UA bill is too late to stop it

In spite of the emergency UA bill last week, which urged the House Dining Advisory Group (HDAG) to reform their proposal in light of “overwhelming student opposition,” HDAG decided yesterday that it will move forward with its plan to implement a mandatory seven-day, all-you-care-to-eat breakfast and dinner program in the current dining halls for fall 2011.

“The core structure of the plan, as defined by the HDAG recommendation is not going to change,” Division of Student Life spokesman Tom Gearty said. “If we are to have a vendor for 2011, we have to move forward.”

Response to UA Bill

Last week’s UA emergency Senate meeting resulted in a bill that called the HDAG process “not transparent, respectful, thorough, or fair.” The bill urged Chancellor Philip L. Clay PhD ’75 to “intervene by halting the RFP [Request for Proposals] process,” in light of a petition and UA survey that revealed students strongly opposed the dining plan.

But Clay told Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo to go ahead with the RFP process this week, The Tech has learned. Gearty said that at this point, the new dining plan is inevitable. “While it’s an ongoing conversation, it’s not about whether or not we’re going to have a new dining plan,” he said.

Gearty said was “disappointed by the tone of the bill.” “I didn’t think it was constructive,” he said.

Cameron S. McAlpine ’13, Baker Dining Chair and member of the HDAG committee, said that the UA is making its demands too late in the process.

“The bill came too late. Because we’re in the middle of the request-for-proposal process, having such a radical change would force us to completely start over from the beginning,” he said.

The RFP Committee is tasked with writing a proposal that will be sent out to potential dining contractors.

Andy Wu ’11, Baker House president and HDAG member, said that while there was some disagreement about pushing the plan forward, it seemed that “the overwhelming majority of HDAG was strongly in favor of the current plan, and the few dissenting opinions were discussed and quickly dismissed.”

Under the HDAG proposal, students living in McCormick, Baker, Next and Simmons would be required to purchase a seven-day all-you-care-to-eat breakfast and dinner meal plan.

(Freshmen would be required to buy the 14-meals per week plan whereas sophomores may choose between 12- and 14-meals per week, and juniors and seniors may decide between the 10-, 12-, or 14-meal-per-week plans. The projected costs of the plans are $2,900, $3,400 and $3,800, respectively. These plans divide meals equally between breakfast and dinner.)

A petition started by students at Next House had demanded that the dining plan be either “non-compulsory or revised to significantly cut costs.” The UA survey of 665 respondents showed that of those who had heard about the plan, 92 percent “did not prefer the proposed Dining Plan.”

HDAG defends dining plan and process

Gearty said that students have had many opportunities to have their voice heard. “We had a process last semester in which we held forums in all the houses. We met with individual student groups upon request and there was Idea Bank. There were multiple channels for students to make their views known.”

In campus-wide e-mail threads last weekend, students worried that the dining plan would reduce student choice and could potentially encourage students to choose dorms solely based on dining, harming dorm culture.

“Many students have legitimate concerns about the meal plan price and its impact on the residential life system,” Gearty said. “With HDAG, we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure people understand the structure of the new plan and what we think are some of the positive things this will bring to the campus community.”

“We’re going to spend the next few weeks getting out as much information as we can so the community has the opportunity to be informed and ask questions,” Gearty said.