20 attend dining protest

SayNo organizes sit-in at Corp. meeting

For the first week in what seems like all semester, few public words have been spoken about dining. No new petitions have been sent out, no Undergraduate Association resolutions have been passed, and no new tweaks to the plan have been made. It’s been a week since the last dining protest. Perhaps students have finally accepted the administration’s word that it is committed to moving ahead with the most recent version of the plan, perhaps they’re even mostly satisfied with it, or maybe they’re just busy studying for finals.

We may come to better know how the student body feels about the current version of the new dining plan in weeks ahead. In their last dining-related e-mail to the student body on December 1, UA President Vrajesh Modi and Vice President Sammi Wyman told undergraduates that the UA was “working on a data-driven analysis of the arguments for and against the plan to understand better the benefits and consequences of the proposal.”

While it remains to be seen if and when new opposition or support for the most recent dining plan will emerge, it is clear that at least some fraction of students still adamantly disagrees with it. Just last Friday morning, a group of about 20 students, mostly from dining hall dorms, organized a protest at the Media Lab lobby, where members of the MIT Corporation were gathering for their quarterly meeting that day.

The students handed out printed copies of the online SayNo petition against dining to about 20 members of the corporation who entered the Media Lab between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Some corporation members both picked up the petition and stopped to chat with the protesters for a few minutes, while others simply ignored the group or took a petition and told students they were in too much of a rush to get to the meeting to speak.

The petition, which has collected 1,838 online signatures, including 1,570 current undergraduates, and 568 residents of dining hall dorms, argues that the new dining plan is too expensive, will disrupt living group culture, and was created without adequate concern for student opinion. Keone Hon ’11, the main organizer of the protest, also wrote and created the website for the SayNo petition.

Secretary of the MIT Corporation Kirk D. Kolenbrander said that members of the corporation who spoke with the students at the Media Lab, “appreciated hearing the thoughts of the students. I was pleased that a mechanism existed where our students felt they could share their thoughts in that fashion.”

Kolenbrander described the Corporation Joint Advisory Committee (CJAC) as “the formal mechanism the Corporation has to be in communication with the students.” Kolenbrander said that CJAC had discussed dining. Compared with the SayNo protesters, the UA has taken a more reserved, yet still unsupportive, stance on the issue. In their December 1 e-mail, Wyman and Modi wrote that the UA was “unable to support the amended proposed dining plan in its current form because it is unclear to us that the majority of the affected students support it.” Meanwhile, there have been at least 64 emails, copied to The Tech, from students, parents, and alumni to Dean Colombo expressing their disapproval of the plan.

John A. Hawkinson contributed reporting to this story.