No bang for your buck

One term in, new dining plan leaves a bad taste

At long last, MIT finally has a real dining plan. As all of you should know, unless you’ve lived under a rock all semester, MIT has finally revamped the old dining protocol, so we no longer have to pay absurd a la carte prices for meager portions, chosen from a limited selection. We now get to eat all we care to! It’s a shining beacon in the midst of the darkness that is vicious time crunches and carnivorous problem sets.

Just kidding.

The new dining plan, in layman’s terms, sucks. Want to hear why? Sit back and take a seat, because I’ve got a mouthful for you. Pun intended.

Let’s start with the prices. We used to have the option of paying a flat rate of $300 at the beginning of the semester to receive a 50 percent discount on meals in dining. This was a bit annoying to some students, and it also caused a $600,000 loss for MIT per year — seems like a pretty motivating factor for change. Those of us on meal plans today pay a large sum of money in the beginning of the semester and, in return, we receive a set number of meals per week. Maseeh freshmen must cough up $4500 on top of tuition and housing to eat 19 meals a week. They have it pretty bad. But hey, that’s just the Maseeh freshmen, right? Juniors and seniors in other dining dorms only have to pay $2500!

But $2500 for 210 meals, under the junior/senior 7 ANY plan, results in a cost of $11.90 per meal. When those of us not on the dining plan can purchase breakfasts for $7.50 and lunches for $11.00, this doesn’t look like a particularly good deal to me. And for somebody not on the dining plan, eating an even distribution of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners would have one paying $10.67 per meal, since dinners individually cost $13.50. All this information can be found on MIT Dining’s Meal Plan website — some calculator use required. In the administration’s defense, however, it’s quite a challenge to provide a service, keep the vendor happy, keep the clientele happy, and stay in the black.

Another major complaint I hear from students in dining dorms is that at the end of the week, they, more often than not, have not used all their meals. The remainder of their meals for the week goes entirely to waste. They don’t roll over to the next week, and you don’t get money back for meals uneaten. That’s especially unfortunate for people who have class during meal hours or who stay up until the sunrise to finish a problem set and sleep through breakfast (but who does that?). So what do you do with your unused meals? Some good solutions would be to swipe a friend in with you or to swipe in, go to office hours, and swipe in again later in one meal period.

Except that MIT doesn’t let you do that either. If somebody wants to swipe in more than once during the same meal period or bring a friend with them, why shouldn’t they be able to? They paid for the meals, so they should be able to use them as they please. As of next semester, this will not be changed, but MIT has been working to implement new policies starting in Fall 2012. The trouble with working with a third party vendor is that issues like this cannot always be changed right away. I won’t claim to have any knowledge of the difficulty involved in fixing issues like this, assuming that altering the logistical details of such a complex system is even possible. The best we can hope for is that the public’s opinion is heard and at least attempted to be made satisfied.

So what do we have now? We have students living in dining dorms very unhappy with the new, overpriced, unwanted dining system that they can only escape by moving into a non-dining dorm. There is no longer any solace for those who lived in Baker, McCormick, Next, and Simmons but want to cook. Even fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups are being forced to participate; the terms of Pi Beta Phi’s new house on Dorm Row include partaking in the meal plan. In my opinion, the new dining plan is nothing more than a financial and culinary death trap. But feel free to disagree with me; this is just my two cents. It’s your $4500.

1 Comment
Matt over 11 years ago

In this episode, the undergraduates discover that the MIT Administration does not have their best interests at heart!