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

Dining committee selects Meriwether Godsey to replace Sodexho

“We are honored and excited to have been picked as a food provider for Guilford,” said Marie (Rie) Meriwether Godsey, president of Meriwether Godsey. “We’re a great fit with Guilford because of our values and size. We are large enough to compete with the larger companies but we’re small enough to remain very hands on.” Meriwether Godsey, an employee-owned dining company, was awarded a multi-year contract, which will begin in August 2008.

A Dining Services Advisory Committee comprised of 16 members, four of which are students, unanimously chose Meriwether Godsey as a food provider, as oppose to Sodexho or Bon Apetit.

A total of six students were involved in the decision-making process: seniors Brennan Aberle, Liz Reilley and Katie Yow, junior Menemsha Milnor, sophomore Jabari Sellars, and first-year Maia Buess.

Aberle said that four students were involved at any given point in time, to represent the four grades.

“I was very happy with the process,” said Gerald Boothby the vice-president for finance and administration. “By the end of the process there was consensus between all 16 members. This experience was a great example of the Quaker tradition. There was good communication and a good presence because everyone was involved.”

Chabotar said that he expects a smooth transition from Sodexho to the new vendor. However, Aberle said that some adjustments need to be made and might take time.

“Since Meriwether Godsey will be doing mostly scratch-cooking, while Sodexho is more about opening boxes and putting stuff in the oven, the staff will need to be trained,” Aberle said. “It’s going to take a lot of work from them and the students to prevent problems.”

Dean for Campus Life Aaron Fetrow, who was also a part of the committee, said that he particularly appreciated student input and dedication to this issue.

“The students did a phenomenal job and they respected that everything on the process was confidential,” Fetrow said. “They resisted the pressure and kept the information to themselves. It showed how mature and responsible our students are. I was really impressed with the process.”

The process was led by Jon Varnell, associate vice-president of operations and facilities.

Once the committee agreed on Meriwether Godsey, a recommendation was submitted to President Kent Chabotar before spring break. After much consideration, Chabotar was convinced that Meriwether Godsey is the best match for the college and approved the decision.

Sophomore Eric Ginsburg was part of an independent study group who researched alternatives to Sodexho that are more appropriate to the school’s core values.

“I am happily surprised that Meriwether Godsey will be contracting with Guilford because the school is often forced to make unethical decisions based on our financial instability and shortsightedness,” said Ginsburg.

Junior Shaina Machlus was a part of a group of students that actively protested Sodexho’s services, particularly their ethical standards and racism within their corporation.

“I would like to hope that the reasons for such a change means that the administration is hearing some of what we’re saying,” Machlus said. “But more important to me is the message that students hold so much power within themselves and have the ability to create change on their own campus, despite all the beaurocracy.”

Buess said that pleasing the students was not the only goal of the committee.

“I don’t think that this was just an attempt to please students. However I do think that Guilford is trying to listen to the community and its concerns,” said Buess. “As anyone on the committee will tell you, we made the results from the student survey and the responses from the dining forums a priority when making this decision.”

Even though much of the student population is pleased with the decision, a deep concern of the community is the worry that the current cafeteria staff will not be hired by Meriwether Godsey and will need to leave the Guilford community.

Junior Nick Clayman is one of those concerned. He took the initiative of starting a petition for students to lobby for retention of the staff. The petition was signed by over 500 traditional students.

“I talked to some employees and they seemed concerned about losing their jobs so I decided to start a petition to show Meriwether Godsey that the students would like the current rehired,” Clayman said.

However, long-standing community members like Douglas Gilmer and John Durham, who are contracted with Sodexho, will no longer be a part of the staff.

Yet, according to Boothby, all interested employees who are not contracted with Sodexho will be interviewed by representatives of Meriwether Godsey, unless they choose to work at other Sodexho locations.

“Those who are hired will not lose any of their salary, as they will keep their currents benefits or receive better ones, and they will have the same seniority,” Boothby said.

He also said that Meriwether Godsey has a high worker retention rate when contracting with new customers.

“It is our practice, habit, and routine to respect the fact that the existing staff members are more a part of the community than we are as of now,” said Celia Lloyd, director of Human Resources. “It’s important to us to keep the continuity and to assemble the team in a way that is good for them and good for Guilford.”

Boothby said that “Realistically, you can’t expect the new company that comes in to guarantee employment to all staff members. It’s not fair to them, but Meriwether Godsey is working hard to hire as many as possible.

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