McCormick asks for more female floors

Students respond to dining changes

In response to the new mandatory dining policy in McCormick Hall, some residents are calling for the establishment of a satellite all-female community in a non-dining dorm. Representatives from McCormick have met with administrators to discuss possible solutions. Though many residents have concerns about the new dining plan, only a minority are hoping to move to a new single-sex community.

According to McCormick Dining Chair Sara Rose Comis ’13, residents would prefer to have an option that allows rising juniors and seniors to opt out of the dining plan without leaving McCormick. However, Comis said that the administration was not receptive to such a plan.

“We have been saying repeatedly that by moving McCormick residents to other dorms, we will be disrupting their culture,” said Comis.

McCormick residents “felt like they were getting kicked out of their home,” said Comis. Though similar frustrations have been voiced by members of other dining dorms who are dissatisfied with the dining plan, the situation in McCormick is complicated by the residence’s status as the only single-sex dorm on campus.

At this point, there are some small all-female communities in non-dining dorms, such as single-sex suites in Burton-Conner and MacGregor. Though the possibility of an all-female floor or entry in another dorm has been proposed, discussions this semester will focus on whether smaller spaces — such as an all-female suite — would be acceptable for current McCormick residents. A survey was sent to all McCormick sophomores and juniors to gauge their interest in the possibility of moving to a new dorm.

Michelle W. Chen ’14 is hoping to move out of McCormick to a non-dining dorm because of the cost of the dining plan. Under the new system, “I feel like I’m obligated to eat here,” said Chen. She expressed interest in staying in an all-female community in a non-dining dorm mostly because she would like to continue living with friends from McCormick.

Monique V. Bowford ’13 echoed concerns about an obligation to eat in the dining hall more often under the new plan. “I try to cook at least once a week,” said Bowford, but under the new plan, “I feel like I’m spending money twice” because of paying for both the dining plan and groceries.

Despite doubts about the new plan, Bowford plans to stay in McCormick. Though Bowford’s decision is primarily due to the community she has found in McCormick, her desire to stay in an all-female dorm also factored in. “I lived at Next over the summer — I didn’t know I would be so uncomfortable with boys in my bathroom and in my space,” she said.

Although some McCormick residents are unhappy with the dining plan, not all disapprove. “I think it will make me eat more nutritiously,” said Noor A. Doukmak ’14.

Though cost is often one of the main concerns of those who disapprove of the dining plan, some residents do not view the pricetag as excessive. Victoria R. Winters ’14, who plans to stay in McCormick, noted, “The same plan at my sister’s college is $1,000 more expensive.”

Charles H. Stewart III, who has served as McCormick Housemaster since 1992, does not see the creation of an alternate environment as a threat to the culture of other dorms. “A lot is made of the differences between the dormitories but the residents of different halls are a lot more alike than we think,” said Stewart. “I remain puzzled and flabbergasted about the notion that there is something wrong and bad with MIT residents moving from one dorm to another.”

Stewart indicated that any potential transition would be eased by the opening of Maseeh Hall, which will cause a large number of students to be moving around campus already.

Robin Baughman, Assistant Director of Housing, said that representatives from Housing have met with McCormick representatives and intend to have further discussions, but that no decisions have been made.

It remains unclear how permanent a second all-female community would be. Stewart indicated that current discussions are only concerning rising juniors and seniors, who came to MIT before details of the soon-to-be implemented dining plan were available. Though Comis believes an additional all-female community should be a permanent installation, she also said that present talks have mainly been about a temporary solution.

According to Comis, McCormick residents have expressed concerns about safety and security in other dorms. “People in McCormick will be wanting higher security,” said Comis, who believes that if a satellite community were created, there would be requests to make the dorm more secure — possibly by limiting the dorm to a single entrance.

Safety and security is commonly cited by McCormick residents as a reason they live in the dorm. Elizabeth R. Attaway ’14 said that she wants to move to another dorm because of costs, but “[single sex] would be preferable — I feel safer that way.”