Harvard University Dining Services Executive Director Ted A. Mayer pointed out the weaknesses of different proposals to bring hot breakfast back to the Houses at an Undergraduate Council meeting on Monday.
Closing the current HUDS deficit of $781,000 would require an increase in student board costs by 4.9 percent, Mayer said. Board fees only went up by 3.8 percent from last year to this year, and HUDS was forced to tap its $2.5 million in reserves.
Though the hot breakfast cuts have saved $900,000, HUDS has considered various plans to reinstate hot breakfast, Mayer said. But most suggestions have been “nickels and dimes—they don’t really have an impact.”
Mayer said that hosting hot breakfast in one House in each of Harvard’s four upperclassman neighborhoods would save only $400,000—less than half of the savings from this year’s cuts. He added that it would be problematic to have to decide which Houses would host hot breakfast.
In response to the proposal that HUDS serve hot breakfast once a week in different Houses, Mayer said that it would violate the current union contract, which prohibits juggling HUDS staffers between Houses, and would create scheduling difficulties.
Mayer also rejected the suggestion that HUDS staffers cook hot breakfast foods the night before and reheat them in the morning, saying that it would be “quite impossible unless we give you frozen quiches or something like that,” which would compromise food quality.
According to Mayer, HUDS has saved a total of $2.7 million due to changes to the academic calendar, administrative cuts, the early retirement package for staffers, and menu changes like the elimination of hot breakfast.
He added that approximately two staffers in each House were able to keep their jobs as a result of the hot breakfast cuts.
Mayer addressed the complaint that the administration did not solicit student input before deciding to cut hot breakfast by pointing to the compressed decision-making timeframe.
“Many people involved in the working groups recognized that it would have been better to have student input...but there wasn’t a lot of time to include students,” he said.
According to a student survey, which had a 50 percent participation rate, breakfast attendance rates have remained static this year in spite of the elimination of hot breakfast, Mayer noted.
But HUDS may need to implement more budget cuts if it sets out to eliminate its deficit, Mayer said.
“You just keep shaving away any time that there is an opportunity to do so,” he said. “We’re pretty bare bones right now.”
—Staff writer Derrick Asiedu can be reached at email@example.com.