The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

College Decides to Bid out Sodexho

As the Sodexho contract expires this year, President Kent Chabotar announced at convocation on the Sept. 5 that the Financial Office decided to send bids to other companies, which means that next year Guilford could be working with a different food supplier.

According to Vice-President for Finance and Administration Gerald Boothby, who is in charge of the Sodexho contract, the final decision will be made no later than February 2008, so that if Guilford decides not to continue with Sodexho, they would have until July to make a transition. “We will probably limit the number of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) we send out to 10 or less,” Boothby stated.

After fall break, it is anticipated that the RFPs will be ready to send.

“After submitting the proposals, we will invite the top three or four finalists to come to campus and make a proposal in person,” Boothby said. “We will get campus input in terms of the presentations that these companies will make and then we will make a decision.”

Boothby said that the college looks to involve students in the decision-making by asking Community Senate to nominate students to be a part of the process, along with faculty, staff and possibly trustees.

“We have a food advisory group, the student Community Senate, and the group of students that has been very active in addressing their concerns about Sodexho that we will consider before making our decision,” Boothby said.

During this process there are several diverse factors that must be considered. According to Aaron Fetrow, Dean for Campus Life, in terms of the numbers of complaints, the major problem the students seem to have with Sodexho is the quality of the food.

“Sodexho has tried to work with us on improving the food quality but the main problem in my opinion is the facilities,” Fetrow said. “We don’t have things like front-line cooking where everything is guaranteed to be fresh, so even if we hire another company, they are still going to be limited by the facilities.”

Fetrow said that in making the decision, factors to consider are the available facilities, the perception of the food, the management of the cafeteria and food quality. “Some of those variables we can improve or change, but things like perception can only be changed by improving the facilities and that requires millions of dollars,” Fetrow said. According to Fetrow, an option would be to hire one of the big-name food providers to give money to renovate the cafeteria, but that means signing a 10-year contract with them.

“It might not be wise to contract with one corporation for too long because they might not feel pressure to try as hard if the quality of the food starts to slip,” Fetrow said. Campus Life’s role in making this decision is to find out how the students feel about the cafeteria.

“We will look at the 3-week survey that the freshmen have to complete in their FYE labs and see how the results regarding the food in the cafeteria come out,” Fetrow said. “If the rating has gone down, then that will tell us something about the food, but there are also other things to consider.”

A crucial student voice is a group of about six students (some of whom have worked closely with the Sodexho employees) who held public forums and presentations last year regarding the alleged discriminatory practices by Sodexho, as well as unethical purchasing.

“I became involved at the beginning of last year when many of the cafeteria workers expressed to me experiences of discrimination in the workplace,” said junior Menemsha Milnor. “Overall, I came to the conclusion that one of the overarching problems is the workers’ discomfort of speaking out and addressing their concerns in the workplace.”

Some discrimination complaints were based on race, gender and class. Some complaints regarding unfair raises were also vocalized.

“It wasn’t that certain people didn’t deserve raises,” said Shaina Machlus. “It was more that the raises were based on things like race and class, the old buddy-boy system.”

Because of the challenges and the fear that the cafeteria workers face when it comes to speaking out, this group of students have dedicated much of their time and energy to vocalize these concerns, but they have struggled with getting attention and support.

“I feel like the administration will listen to you but they won’t necessarily act on what you’re saying in a way that you would want them to act,” said sophomore Casey Thomas.

This group of students meets every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. in King 126, and they extend the invitation to any student or faculty member who is interested in joining them.

“Every week we do research on Sodexho, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and other food and drink corporations in order to find an appropriate alternative to Sodexho,” Machlus said. “We are trying to bring the staff and students together to ensure staff equality and a stronger community.”

This group hopes to recruit more members, especially students, by spreading more awareness through future open forums and presentations.

“In our presentation last year, we tried to project a lot of different aspects to let the students and the administration know why Sodexho, as a corporation, does not adhere to our schools beliefs and the ethical purchasing procurement document,” Milnor said.

The document was presented by Max Carter and the school approved it but according to Milnor, “It is not set in stone yet.”

“Students need to be involved in the process,” said sophomore Atreese Watkins. “In order to make the best decision possible, we should be thinking about how it makes us feel to know that discrimination is happening everyday, every time we walk into our cafeteria, and what we are going to do about it.”

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