Students continue to raise concerns over dining plans

Petition to change the minimum meal plan back to the 125-block plan has over 1,074 signatures

The recent change to the minimum upper-level student meal plan in dining dorms continues to receive negative feedback from students. Students have raised concern through a petition to MIT Dining as well as at a meeting of the House Dining Committee (HDC) on April 4.

The petition to MIT Dining to change the minimum meal plan back to the 125-block plan was started a week ago by Emily Larson ’22. It has since gathered 1,074 signatures, as of the time of this issue’s publication.

A meeting of the HDC on April 4 discussed the new meal plan for next year. Students spoke to administration and dining staff about their concerns about the new meal plan, which increases the minimum number of meals per semester to 150, from 125. It also reduces the amount of dining dollars from $290 to $100 per semester. Students’ concerns included increased prices, reduced dining dollars, and lack of good lunch options on campus.

The meeting was attended by students from Next House, Maseeh Hall, Simmons Hall, and McCormick Hall; the Baker Head of House; dining staff; Division of Student Life staff; and Bon Appetit staff.

According to the meeting minutes, dining staff said that the rationale behind the change was “feedback from students and heads of house,” which indicated that students who were on the 125-block meal plan were not eating enough meals, as they thought they might run out of swipes. Dining staff also said that a dining plan that provides a little more than one meal a day was insufficient. The old meal plan provided an average of eight meals per week.

“HDC representatives asserted that making students buy more swipes may not translate into more students eating in the dining halls,” stated the meeting minutes. HDC representatives also brought up students’ objections to the change and lack of communication about it.

Some concerns raised were decreased dining dollars, higher price per meal than current sticker prices, and non-availability of food options at lunch for people with dietary restrictions. Dining staff said that dining dollars were decreased to avoid increasing the meal plan price more. Sticker prices have not risen in two years and are expected to rise in the coming year.

According to the meeting minutes, dining staff does not currently plan to amend the 150 meal plan. However, other plans such as allowing meal swipes to be used in Cafe Four, evaluating retail food options, and having a dining hall serving lunch in the New Vassar residence were discussed. Meeting attendees also felt that it was important to have a conversation about menu options, to accommodate students’ dietary needs.

Residence hall representatives mainly focused on breakfast swipe utilization, lunch, and community building issues. Next House and Maseeh Hall representatives said that breakfast swipes were not a good target for culture building or students eating adequately. Simmons Hall reported consistent swipe usage at both breakfast and dinner, but, along with other dorms, brought up students’ dissatisfaction with having too many swipes left over.

Lunch was highlighted as an issue due to crowding and food quality in Maseeh. New Vassar’s dining hall is supposed to resolve crowding issues when it opens.

Building community in the dorms was a reason cited by dining staff to encourage students to eat in dorms. HDC representatives agreed that dinner could contribute to culture, but did not feel that lunch or breakfast had effects on community building.