Students Protest, HUDS Responds

Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) executive director Ted A. Mayer issued an open letter yesterday to disgruntled students outlining six days of new menu changes and addressing concerns about food quality in light of rising prices.

The letter comes on the heels of increasing student complaints over house e-mail lists and through proposed protest campaigns.

The Mather House e-mail list has had almost 200 e-mails detailing student dissatisfaction with HUDS food, according to Mather Undergraduate Council Representative Arvind H. Vaz ’08.

“The amount of anger and resentment, I’ve never seen before,” he said. “It’s astounding.”

According to Mayer’s open letter, HUDS has implemented immediate menu changes in response to the complaints, starting with yesterday’s dinner and continuing until Wednesday, when the spring cycle menu begins.

HUDS also used the letter, which was sent to House masters, House administrators, the Mather open list, and select undergraduates, as an opportunity to refute claims that have been circulating. Mayer affirmed HUDS’ dedication to whole grain options and student health.

Michael T. Henderson ’11, chair of the HUDS student advisory committee, said the student reaction to HUDS has “snowballed” out of proportion.

HUDS’ menu changes have been due to uncontrollable factors including budget constraints and current food prices, Henderson said, echoing HUDS’ own explanations.

“People need to realize it’s not HUDS’ fault,” he said.

But Vas said that HUDS has made what he called a “series of curious decisions,” including the purchase of flat-screen televisions, free-trade coffee, locally grown food, and free-range chicken eggs.

Vaz said that HUDS’ spending decisions have shown “indifference to undergraduate life.”

Many students have held HUDS responsible for the declining quality of dining hall food. The “HUDS Illuminati”—an anonymous group of students formed by Mather resident Daniel A.F. Demetri ’09—has been rallying for a reformed food satisfaction survey.

Demetri has also been actively criticizing HUDS through the Mather e-mail threads, and he said he plans to personally finance a letter-writing campaign to alumni, administrators, HUDS, and college review guides.

Demetri—who is lactose intolerant—said he was happy with HUDS last semester but has been having trouble finding good sources of protein. He said that he has received e-mails from other lactose intolerant students who have been reduced to a cereal-based diet.

Henderson said the letter bodes well: “They’re willing to make compromises. It shows that they’re listening to students.”

—Staff Writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at estheryi@fas.harvard.edu.