January 29, 2010

Top chef

Upcoming contract negotiations will allow much-needed competition in campus food service

Next year, Aramark will compete with other food vendors for the first time in 15 years as its contract ends. Administrators will draw up a request for bid proposals as early as this spring, so the coming quarters are a crucial time for students to speak up about campus dining. As for the University, it should seriously consider the widespread dissatisfaction over Aramark service, food quality, and labor practices when it evaluates the company’s bid.

For many students, food and service in the dining halls and other Aramark facilities fall short. Although some of the dining halls have improved in the past couple of years, most of the halls still suffer from limited selection and rotation of their menus and inconsistent preparation. In addition, students have complained about unhelpful food service workers and managers. If the new meal plan system has made eating at the dining halls more attractive, the University could create an even stronger incentive by improving the experience of eating there.

The University should also consider Aramark’s reputation for unfair labor practices. Its treatment of workers has been protested on campuses across the country—including ours. In spring 2008, a number of student groups on campus partnered with the dining hall workers’ union to advocate for better wages and working conditions. With the workers’ contract coming up for negotiation in spring 2011, the University should make sure that Aramark is committed to treating workers fairly.

This spring, Aramark will partner with students and administrators to conduct a campus-wide assessment of dining services. The maroon hopes this evaluation is a sincere attempt at improving service and not posturing before contract negotiations. But students who are dissatisfied with Aramark’s performance should let administrators know that they don’t think the company’s contract deserves to be set in stone.

— The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.