Residential dining at the Institute

The state of the system at the end of year 2

Among residential four-year universities in the U.S., providing some sort of dining plan for their undergraduates is commonplace. While plans vary, a significant number provide buffet style all-you-care-to-eat service. Until Fall 2011, MIT was not among that number.

In 2010, the Institute committed to a controversial revamping and implementation of a new dining plan. Today, five out of the twelve undergraduate dorms are dining dorms. Students living in those dorms must be on a meal plan — with options varying based on residence and year. During Spring 2011, the Undergraduate Association ran a referendum poll on student opinions about the implementation the new dining plan that reported only 12.16 percent of students agreed with the administration’s approach.

The Tech thought it would be fitting to investigate the state of dining, evaluating whether opinions have changed over the course of the past almost four semesters. We ran a survey to gather student opinions on various aspects of the dining system. 24 percent of the undergraduate population, including 564 students that are currently on a meal plan — 30 percent of the students currently enrolled in the meal plan — responded.

Although the Residential Life & Dining office declined to provide official enrollment numbers for each plan, we believe our data paints a picture that represents the feelings of those on the dining plan. Of the survey responders on a plan, 75 percent (431 of the 564) felt that they were getting “less than their money’s worth” out of each dining hall meal. Additionally, about only about 45 percent (255 of 564) of survey responders on a plan agreed or strongly agreed that they are “satisfied with the quality of food served at the dining hall.” The survey also collected comments from students ranging from commending the service in the individual halls to claiming that they moved out of their dorm because of the introduction of the dining plan.

We hope that this feature on the state of dining sheds some light on areas where residential dining can be improved.

Stan Gill, News Editor