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Meal plans, health services are topics of tonight's forum

An Institute-wide "town meeting" will be held at 7:15 p.m. tonight in Room 10-250 to discuss the mental health report and proposals to require next year's freshman class and others to eat dinner together.

The Office of Campus Dining, following up on suggestions by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning to enhance community feeling, unveiled on Sept. 20 a number of proposals for meal plans.

Chancellor Phillip L. Clay acknowledged student concerns about the dining proposals in a statement on the web and printed Sept. 28 as a column in The Tech.

"Initially, we cannot fully implement a system-wide plan," he said. "While we will open one, and perhaps two, dining facilities next year, our overall plan calls for incorporating dining as part of construction and renovation plans going forward. So the extent of expected participation next year and in the years following will lie in our physical capacity and in our ability to sustain a quality program."

The chancellor said the administration is committed to developing a dining system "we can be proud of." He also pledged that the Institute would:

  • Begin implementation next September of a financially feasible "minimum participation program."
  • Increase student input by adding as many as five more students to the Campus Dining Board, which now has three student members.
  • Provide increased financial aid to cover additional costs of a dining plan.
  • Respect the local traditions of dormitories, some of which have kitchens or "well-established plans" for dining as part of their residential program.

"Our students deserve a comprehensive approach to dining that supports balanced and healthy living and that is part of what makes the community fabric strong," Clay said. "The plan should contain features that match the different tastes and lifestyles our students have. In order to be sustainable, it should also fit students' budgets and the Institute's financial constraints.

"MIT has committed to make--over the next three to four years--the investment to create a system we can be proud of."

He said the proposed plans call for "full participation on the part of next year's freshman class and no required participation on the part of students who are currently juniors and will be seniors next year. The standards for next year's sophomores and juniors have not been fully established, but we anticipate some flexibility and choice that discussions over the next few weeks will inform.

"Until we can count on major student participation in the plan, the operating costs and the basis for investment in upgrading or building dining facilities cannot be made," Clay said.

"Dean Larry Benedict and members of his office have listened carefully to the students and have informed me of some of the issues that are still a concern in the current draft. They are working hard and will look for opportunities at the Town Meeting and from other sources in the coming weeks to greatly improve the options. It certainly is true that our students are often our most creative problem-solvers, and the input of students will be a valued part of our process as we move forward."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 3, 2001.

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