MIT Dining to increase meal plan commitment minimums for Class of 2024

Open forum to be held in W20-308 from 6–7 p.m. March 2

Mark Hayes, director of campus dining, and Peter Cummings, executive director for administration at the Division of Student Life (DSL), presented updates on the progress of the Meal Plan Working Group at the Dormitory Council (DormCon) meeting Feb. 20. Students can share their thoughts in an open forum 6–7 p.m. in W20-308 March 2.

MIT Dining will employ a phased implementation beginning with the Class of 2024 this fall: the meal swipe commitment will increase to 225 for first-year students, 190 for sophomores, and 160 for juniors and seniors.

The meal swipe commitment will not change for current MIT students. However, dining dollars will be optional for all students.

Cummings said at the DormCon meeting that the new meal plans will reduce the range of the price per meal from between the current $9.60–$14.20 to $14–$15.

Making dining dollars component optional would reduce the price of the 125-swipe plan by “about eight percent compared to last year,” Hayes said in an interview with The Tech. Students on a meal plan would then be able to purchase dining dollars separately, allowing them to still enjoy the five percent discount.

Hayes said that New Vassar will address the issue of students’ ability to eat all their meals with longer hours of operation: “There will be a pick-and-go breakfast location; you can come in and grab and go for a breakfast swipe. Brunch will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner will be open from 5–9 p.m.”

The changes will also address Maseeh’s lunch rush issues. “With New Vassar being an earlier lunch/brunch location, we think we will be able to capture more lunch swipes,” Hayes said.

Hayes added that New Vassar will contain 10 cooking pods, self-contained cooking stations within its kitchens.

MIT Dining operating losses are expected to increase to $2.6 million for the next academic year, Cummings said at the meeting.

Cummings highlighted two factors that will cause the cost increase: adding the dining hall at New Vassar and closing Burton-Conner. There are currently about 120 BC residents opting into the meal plan, and revenues will decrease when these residents move out, Cummings said.

Cummings said that MIT has always subsidized dining and DSL is “not against the idea” that costs shouldn’t be placed upon students.

Two primary challenges to campus dining were balancing value and quality and breaking the cycle of dissatisfaction, Cummings said.

“MIT’s dining system runs at a deficit, making re-investment difficult,” the working group’s website writes.

Cummings said that high operating costs, limited participation, and the proximity of dining options and barriers to quick meal service were three causes of the campus dining challenges.

Discussions at the meeting also included whether the high-end option of having 19 meals a week in the 260 plan should be kept.

“These are still just ideas, they are taking shape, they are up for discussion input,” Cummings said.