A possible look at EMU's dining services

The Board of Regents is considering privatizing Eastern Michigan University’s Dining Services. This cost-saving measure could affect concessions at the Crossroads Marketplace, Dinning Commons, Convocation Center and half a dozen of the small shops located throughout campus.

“It could turn out we stay with the current dinning services,” Executive Director of Media Relations Geoff Larcom said to a journalist from M-Live last May.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the move comes from a report calling for the university to reduce expenditures by $27 million.

The university released a request for proposals on a privatization plan on April 25, with a due date of May 13. The request for proposals stipulated a ten-year contract to feed around 15,000 students per year with “financial resources to self-fund proposed capital investment and working capital necessary for this operation.”

But not everyone on campus is pleased. College of Business Accounting Professor Howard Bunsis rejected the university’s claims of financial hardship and says that the move is aimed to cripple or eliminate the various unions on campus.

“The university’s bond rating remains strong and there are solid cash flows and real reserves,” Bunsis said. “If there are any financial issues at EMU, it is clear that the priorities of the EMU administration are completely misplaced. If money is to be saved, those savings can be achieved by reducing the absurd throwing of money down the drain of athletics and our out-sized administration. There are too many administrators making too much money at EMU and instead of cutting athletics or administration, EMU has chosen to lay off hard working, dedicated and underpaid employees.”

Bunsis has created a petition online to keep the university from privatizing dining. As of June 11, the petition has 253 signatures. It has a goal of 300.

“Eastern Michigan University students were hit with a 7.8 percent tuition increase last year, and with another large tuition increase soon to be approved, privatization will have EMU students paying more for lower quality food,” the petition states.

Larcom told the Free Press “A recent national review found that 74 percent of universities nationwide utilize a third party to provide food services.”

Chartwells Food Services was one of three vendors that made a bid. It provides food for Oakland University in Rochester.

In March of last year the Oakland Postcovered a town hall style meeting where students confronted the vendor and the university about food quality, sanitation, transfer meals, allergy concerns and the staff temperament. The article did acknowledge a quick response to student concerns from Chartwells.

Chartwells food also is involved in providing food to the Washington D.C. public schools system. Last June, it agreed to pay $19 million in a whistleblower law suit.

According to the Washington Post, the lawsuit claimed “the company overcharged the city and mismanaged the school meal programs, with food often arriving at schools late, spoiled or in short supply.”

The District of Columbia Attorney-General also began a formal investigation. The whistleblower was Jeffery Mills, former Director of Food and Nutritional Services for D.C. Public Schools.

Mills was fired as a result. The District of Columbia then settled a lawsuit he filed for $450,000, according to the Post.

“The likely result of this situation is that the EMU administration will be starting the process of eroding several bargaining units on campus, reducing the ability of our workers to have an effective voice in university matters,” Bunsis said.

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