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Task force looks at dining, social options for new college system

Princeton NJ -- A presidential task force that will develop recommendations for the dining and social environment in Princeton’s new four-year residential college system has begun its work and launched a Web site.

The Dining and Social Options Task Force is an outgrowth of the Four-Year Residential College Program Planning Committee, which issued a report in fall 2002. The report proposed modifications in advising/staffing, programming, housing and dining to convert the University’s current system of five two-year colleges into a system of paired two- and four-year colleges that will, in the words of the report, “create more interaction for first- and second-year students with upperclass students, graduate students and faculty.”

The introduction of the new system will coincide with the first stage of an increase in the undergraduate student body from 4,600 to 5,100 and the opening of a sixth residential college, Whitman College, in fall 2007.

The Dining and Social Options Task Force will look at issues such as:

• a flexible dining environment that supports aspirations for building community in the residential setting, including the possibilities of extended meal hours, uses of dining spaces for study and community activities outside of dining hours, and access to dining facilities that is less rigidly controlled than the current check-in system;

• improvement in the quality of food;

• attention to the quality of the space in college dining halls, with high standards for furnishing, lighting, acoustics and ambiance; and

• additional variety in dining spaces and options.

The Four-Year Residential College Program Planning Committee recommended that students remain affiliated with their residential colleges for all four years, whether or not they choose to live in the college in their junior and senior years. To encourage students to participate in activities in their residential colleges while also taking advantage of the other dining options for juniors and seniors, the task force also will consider: possible structures for meal plans that will enable upperclass students who live in the residential colleges to split their meal contracts between the colleges and eating clubs or independent arrangements; and ways of encouraging non-resident juniors and seniors to take occasional meals and participate in activities in their original residential colleges.

“The future of the new four-year residential college system will depend, to a large degree, on how successful we are in improving the quality of our food, the flexibility and ambiance of our dining spaces, and the creation of a seamless, interconnective dining plan,” said Michael Jennings, professor and chair of German, who is chairing the 17-member task force made up of students, faculty and staff. Jennings was master of Rockefeller College from 1990 to 1999.

“The task force is excited by this challenge and eager to help the University think creatively about a solution,” he added.

The group welcomes ideas and suggestions from members of the University community through its Web site at <www.princeton.edu/pr/dsotf/>. Members already have been visiting other campuses around the country to gather ideas. The task force expects to complete its work and issue a report by this June.