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Letter From the Editor Issue 6

by Christian Diaz, News Editor

Competition among businesses is good for the consumer, no doubt.

Threatening Sodexo with the possibility of not renewing their contract before it expires in 2013, for example, led to their increased efforts to please students.

Some ideas were even brilliant. Gladfelter introduced earlier Saturday lunch hours and a nacho bar and damnit—those make me happy.

Other ideas are perplexing…will I ever try that s’more quesadilla?

We even gained, and I still can’t believe it, opaque coffee during breakfast. These are huge concessions, which students and faculty have been clamoring for for years.

Our requests and preferences are taken more seriously now as dining services bid for our tuition money. Though regardless of which company gets a contract, students win… right?

Wrong. The most pressing complaints students have about our current provider would have been solved over the summer when dining services planned to build a coffeehouse in lower Sunderland and introduce flexdollars to our meal plan.

As the final deal was being polished with Sodexo, students entered a mob trance and signed a shortsighted petition asking the administration to explore other business possibilities.

Yet the addition of a café and flexdollars would have opened alternatives to Gladfelter and Cowpie for students to study, eat and hang out.

The proposed Sunderland coffee shop would have been ideal for professors and staff who want to buy coffee and mingle with students in a casual setting.

New venues would have saved us time during our day by absorbing some of the traffic that tends to overwhelm dining facilities in the early afternoon.

Flexdollars would become available to use at the student-run Sage Café, adding yet another option to our meal plan.

No longer would we be limited to rigid meal times, as a Sunderland coffee shop would have been open during the day and Sage Cafe during the evening.

Choosing from four places to eat—that would be a true win for students, but now we have to wait another semester to see improvements.

In the meantime we risk losing our current provider, which receives almost unanimous approval ratings from staff and faculty. A majority of students surveyed also show approval, though to a lesser extent.

Now, I have covered what I consider legitimate complaints. These revolve around quality of service with the most common laments being bad coffee, limited hours, and limited flexibility.

Illegitimate complaints are also common. Students often like to sit and complain about how awful the food is. Literally, food is decomposing in their mouths as they whine. To them I say, we pay three dollars per meal here, and you get what you pay for. Unless the food is expired, check your privilege and be grateful.

The other complaint I hear is that Sodexo does not share our values. To these students I say that values are expressed in actions and not in words, so what values are we talking about? I see students wasting food every single day–tons of it. I see full plates being turned upside down over the compost bin. Chicken patties are still the most popular meal served in Gladfelter, and disposable coffee cups are replenished constantly. Our dining facilities are no less sustainable than the majority of the student body.

If you find yourself frustrated with the way food service is run because it promotes climate change and food insecurity I invite you to share your concerns with Sodexo folk. That’s what’s beautiful about our tight campus, staff are approachable.

But that is also what is difficult about our small community.

If we decide to hire Chartwells we will say goodbye to people who have been a part of our community longer than some students have been alive, longer than students who signed the petition will be here.

Students should not underestimate their power. Had the petition not been assembled in such haste our complaints would have already been addressed, and our community members would not be afraid to lose their jobs.


2 Responses to “Letter From the Editor Issue 6”

  1. I started the petition to consider other options because, as co-convener of Caucus, I heard complaints and concerns about Sodexho so very often- more than I heard about any other issue, even Res Life. And the complaints weren’t all about the food. Some were about staff that were perceived as rude, callous or insensitive on a regular basis. Some were about a work environment that is considered one of the least desirable on campus.
    I absolutely didn’t imagine that there would be some magic food service company out there that would provide us with our dream meal plan for cheap and make the dining crew everyone’s favorite. I didn’t even set out to get rid of Sodexho for an imagined lesser evil. I just believe in transparency and inclusion in decision making and a renewed contract at the tail end of the school year is not that.
    If we choose Sodexho we only had to wait a year for the changes they proposed and we got the opportunity to make a decision as a community as a bonus.
    Now that Bon Apetit is out of the running, I think we should keep Sodexho. A company that, and I’ve always acknowledged this, has worked very well with us for many years. Chartwell just doesnt very different or much better.
    I hope that if we choose Sodexo the very serious issues of the work environment in Gladfelter cafeteria are addressed.

    Posted by Kyja Wilburn | November 17, 2011, 2:53 am
  2. Kyja,

    I invite you to write a response that we can publish in the Echo and I also hope you don’t feel like I’m attacking you.

    I think what you just wrote is valid, and students should voice their concerns about the work environment.

    Posted by Christian | November 17, 2011, 4:03 pm

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