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Suites residents retain control over dining clubs

Suites residents reached an agreement with the University that they will be allowed to manage their own dining areas and chefs for the upcoming academic year, ending a months-long conflict between Suites Dining, formally known as the Governor’s Corner Dining Societies and Residential Education (ResEd), according to Nate Boswell, associate dean of Residential Education, in an email to The Daily.

Suites Dining will be the only student-run dining area on campus this year, continuing a 25-year tradition of autonomous management.

Last spring, Suites students debated with ResEd, which had upgraded the bid process requirements for dining vendors.

“During spring quarter, Residential Education remained uncertain whether the dining societies would be able to [meet the requirements], and thus it was necessary to explore possible alternatives,” Boswell said.

One of the alternatives that ResEd proposed was to replace Suites’ student-run management with the outside contractor Student Organized Services (SOS), which manages Row house chefs. Suites students objected, pointing out that Nick Peters, chief executive of SOS, is the brother-in-law and former employer of ResEd assistant director Zac Sargeant. Although ResEd repeatedly denied any conflict of interest, Suites residents continued to contest this claim.

In addition, Suites chefs were vocal about their concerns about the proposed, new system.

“[Middle Earth chef] Steven Roland was concerned,” said Suites CFO Morgan Priestly ’12. “He just wanted the job the way it was. If our chefs had chosen to stay under SOS, they’d have been paid significantly less. We were concerned about the quality of the whole experience.”

Over the summer, however, Suites CEO J.T. Sullivan ’11 and Priestly engaged in extensive talks with ResEd to find ways they could meet the University’s stricter requirements for financial disclosure and liability.

“For a long time, there were a dozen students in charge of over a million dollars,” Priestly said. “ResEd was concerned that there was a potential for bad things to happen.”

The two parties agreed that Suites dining could maintain its autonomy in hiring and managing their chefs, while partnering more closely with ResEd on financial aspects.

“Once a lot of things were out and on the table, the relationship definitely got better,” Priestly said.

ResEd also indicated satisfaction with the talks’ outcome.

“[Suites'] leadership team has worked diligently over the course of the summer to meet all relevant, upgraded University requirements,” Boswell said. “Residential Education appreciates the work that has been done to date and looks forward to working with the dining societies to strengthen the program and identify future opportunities.”

While praising ResEd for its negotiations with Suites students, Sullivan also said that there were ways in which ResEd could continue to improve its relationship with student groups.

“I believe that the early tension between ResEd and Suites mostly came about from a series of miscommunication and a misunderstanding of what the other party was hoping to achieve in the arrangement,” he said. “This cooperative atmosphere can only be upheld by continued open communication.”

Nevertheless, Suites students are celebrating their victory in maintaining autonomy.

“It is important to maintain the student-run aspect of Suites to give present and future students the opportunity for real job and managerial experiences that might not be provided to them,” Sullivan said. “Suites is also well-known around campus as having some of the best food around … I believe that it is the student management and the input that they provide that has brought about this reputation of excellence.”

Caroline Chen