Op-Ed: No Need for Suites Contractor

Stanford Residential Education says its mission is to “extend the classroom into the residences and complement the academic curriculum with activities and experiences essential to students’ preparation for a life of leadership, intellectual engagement, citizenship and service.” As residents of Suites this year and members of the Suites Dining Societies, we have been beneficiaries of this ideal in action. The Dining Societies have run smoothly for almost 28 years under the management of GovCo Dining, a non-profit student run corporation. It produces better food and provides more responsive management than we received from Stanford Dining or in the Row houses, and at a lower price. Unfortunately, it seems that ResEd has been working to replace this system with a third party contractor (as explained in The Daily’s May 20 article, “Contractor to manage GovCo eating clubs”) for reasons not adequately explained.

That contractor is Student Organized Services (the irony seems lost on ResEd), the same company that has taken control at the Toyon Eating Clubs and many Row House kitchens. There, they have eliminated student management, reduced the quality of the chefs, eliminated student hashing and taken their cut for “contracting services.”

The manner in which ResEd has foisted these changes on students is deeply troubling. The decision to give the contract to SOS seems to have been made long before ResEd consulted any students or even the current managers of GovCo Dining. What started as a request to audit the finances of GovCo Dining (a request with which student managers complied) seems to have actually been the first phase of the intended takeover.

This whole affair seems to be more than just an eager bureaucracy expanding its remit. Zac Sergeant, the liaison from the ResEd office to our student managers, is the former CEO of SEC, the company from which SOS eventually branched off. His brother-in-law Nick Peters is the current CFO and founder of SOS. Dean of ResEd Deborah Golder initially denied that any conflict of interest exists. When presented with irrefutable evidence, ResEd backtracked and its Director of Operations Aaron Buzay insisted that all potential conflicts of interest “have been addressed,” but we have seen no documentation of any such action , and the website connecting Sergeant to SEC was taken down last week.

The transition has been sloppy. Hashers went unpaid for months when ResEd took over responsibility for their payment. Worse yet, our excellent chefs are set to lose their health benefits this summer, as their contracts have not been renewed. If the new management ever does get around to those contracts, it looks increasingly likely that they will force pay or benefit cuts.

We hope RedEd recognizes that this affair represents a direct contradiction of their stated mission. The job of Stanford University is to educate. Education is not merely classes, essays and problem sets. It also means working with other students to publish newspapers, run local government, and yes, feed ourselves. At best, ResEd is trying to protect us from ourselves. But why? The Suites eating clubs are an excellent example of what ResEd ought to be promoting. The high quality of the food has been a continual source of pleasure for us, and it would be foolish to risk depriving future Suites residents of the experience we have had. Just let them be.

 

Carl Case ‘11, Justin Costa-Roberts ‘11, Keegan Poppen ‘11, and Bill Rowan ‘11

Suites residents and happy patrons of Beefeater’s eating club

 

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