The end of an era at Suites Dining

Chef Frank Hassan, shown here cooking in his beloved Bollard Eating Club, is set to lose his job at the end of this academic year. (MEHMET INONU/The Stanford Daily)

This is the first part of a long-form article on the University’s decision to end student management at the Suites Eating Clubs. Click here to view parts two, three, and four.

Frank Hassan has been head chef in Suites’ Bollard Eating Club for seven years, and he specializes in making two things: an incredible breakfast and memories.

It’s the former you’ll get if you walk into Bollard between 7:30 and 9:15 a.m. weekday mornings, where dozens of students chatter under an enormous banner – erected by unknown admirers at some point over the past decade – featuring Frank’s beaming face and the club’s informal title: “The Bollard Empire.”

But it’s the memories that last, and over the three years I’ve eaten and worked at Suites, I’ve picked up quite a few: Frank volunteering to wake up two hours early to have breakfast ready for the track team by 5:30 a.m. the days we left early for out-of-state meets; Frank and I watching the Mubarak regime fall on the Bollard TV while he offered keen political observations on his native Egypt; the way he enthusiastically greets every male student with a heavily accented “my main man!” and every female with a “good morning, beautiful”; Frank giving my mom a big hug when I brought her to Bollard to visit during my junior year.

I’ll take those memories with me when I finally leave Stanford this spring. It’s hard enough knowing I may never come back, but this year is an especially difficult one in which to say goodbye. That’s because next fall – for the first time in eight years – Frank Hassan may not be coming back either.

***

Residential Education (ResEd) has four offices and 39 professional employees, and the ResEd Central Office is located on the second floor of Tresidder Union, in Suite 9.

Ever since ResEd first assumed responsibility for paying Suites Dining’s student workers in the fall of 2010, I’d been visiting the Central Office every few weeks to pick up my paycheck for cleaning the kitchens. I needed the money and I kept on coming back, so when I walk up the spiral staircase and through the clear glass door, I smile and wave to Alyssa Ray, the Central Office’s friendly and familiar administrative assistant.

This time, however, I’m not here to pick up a paycheck. I’m here to meet with Dean of ResEd Deborah Golder, ResEd Associate Dean Nate Boswell ’99 M.A. ’09 and ResEd Director of Operations Aaron Buzay.

On Jan. 30, Boswell and Buzay sent an email to ResEd’s Suites student email list informing all residents that next year – for the first time since Suites Dining was founded in 1982 – students will no longer run Suites’ four eating clubs. They will be replaced, due to what the email described as “health and safety concerns” and “a pressing desire to lower the board rate,” with an outside corporation.

Avanti, Beefeaters, Bollard and Middle Earth have served food to Suites residents six days a week for the past 30 years under student management, which is currently provided by the student-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit Governor’s Corner Dining Societies (GCDS). One chef runs each eating club and is assisted by a student CEO and CFO who oversee all four clubs, eight student managers (two per eating club) and a team of paid student “hashers” (that’s me) who clean the kitchens before and after meals.

Frank has cooked in Bollard for seven years. Dennis has been head chef in Beefeaters for 22. Tony has led Avanti for 18 years. And Caroline is new to Middle Earth this year, having recently moved to the area with her husband and two kids.

As part of the move to corporate management, the chefs’ contracts are not being renewed.

I want to know why, and it’s the chefs I’m thinking about as I shake hands and sit down with Boswell, Buzay and Golder.

The conversation begins pleasantly enough, although they tend to use a lot of bureaucratically vague sentences with the words “moving forward,” “sustainable” and “conversation” thrown in. But something Golder says about the selection process for the new, non-student contractor rubs me the wrong way.

“We always involve students in decision-making,” she says.

This is news to me. In fact, the first time ResEd notified all Suites residents that they were considering replacing student leadership with a corporate contractor was when Boswell and Buzay sent the email informing residents that the decision had already been made. I decide to point this out.

“How have you involved students in decision-making up to this point? I mean, besides the managers, have you gotten feedback from students at Suites on this?”

Buzay looks confused.

“You mean have we run, like, a… a survey?”

“No, I mean what have you done? I know you haven’t run a formal survey, but have you talked to students at Suites about this change?”

“So we sent out… we sent out the email to the Suites community…”

“Right. So up until the point you sent the email, though, you hadn’t talked to any students in Suites besides the CEO and CFO?”

There’s more talk of “moving forward” and “sustainable business,” from which I conclude that the answer to my initial question is “no.”

Fortunately, a survey that asked Suites residents if they approved or disapproved of the proposed change had been sent out to the Suites email list – just not by ResEd. I know, because I created it. It took me approximately five minutes to draft.

149 Suites residents answered the poll, and 143 of them – 95.97 percent – disapproved of ResEd’s decision to contract food services to an outside vendor and not to renew the current chefs’ contracts.

(LORENA RINCON-CRUZ/The Stanford Daily)

I had made a comments section available on the survey form, and I’m interested to know what Boswell, Buzay and Golder think of the student opinions they never solicited. I decide to read a few representative student responses aloud.

“Number one: ‘I am very disappointed with the decision from ResEd to take over contracting and management of Suites Dining. I do not like that our chefs are being treated in this manner. They have put years of dedication and service into their jobs and Stanford.’

“Number two: ‘As far as I know, this decision from ResEd was reached with no consultation from the general student community in Suites, which is undemocratic, unaccountable and unacceptable.’

“Number three: ‘The students who run Beefeaters and Dennis provide the best dining service found on campus. All the outside corporations that I have seen on campus come in sub-par to the standards at the Eating Clubs, and I think this is a bureaucratic and stupid decision.’

“What would you say to that?” I prompt the ResEd administrators.

There’s a very, very long silence.

Continue to part 2

  • thatgirl

    While I really appreciate the excellent reporting on the progressive University takeover of housing and dining, I still don’t know what we’re expected to do about it. The administration is pretty horrendous about paying attention to student petitions, and few students seem as well-positioned and informed as you to debate face-to-face with ResEd. Besides complain to the University and spread the word to the rest of the student body and alums, what can we actually do against this bureaucracy?

  • lol

    nothing, you’re from stanfurd suck it up

  • Alumninum

    Organize a strike. Plain and simple. Non-cooperation. Don’t be polite sheep – nor impolite sheep. Stanford is too good to be producing that. How can you save the world if you can’t even save Suites?

  • thatoptimist

    Not true. As students at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, who are going to go on to solve global problems, create international businesses, etc it’s ridiculous to think that we don’t have the power to stand up against our own university. Also, we *are* at Stanford meaning that no one else is gonna do this for us and we have a responsibility to do it.

    Re: thatgirl, GCDS has fought off a ResEd takeover before; let’s start talking about donation boycotts, performance reviews of administrators, mandatory student input and involvement in housing decisions (not just focus groups but actual oversight), changing the requirements for subcontractor bids so that new subcontractors are forced to re-hire existing workers, and many, many other things. None of these are outside the realm of possibility.

  • Well

    Well back in the day, Stanford students fought for what they felt was right. We got rid of ROTC and established the community centers by not just creating petitions…

  • John

    You mean they violently protested and set the Navy ROTC building on fire in opposition to a war in which soldiers had no choice in fighting? Blame the military? You think that was a good thing? It’s a very sad chapter in Stanford’s history. Choose your words carefully, people aren’t that stupid these days.

  • cardinallakie

    How do you deal with this crap from ResEd? Move the f*ck out of
    Stanford Housing! Work together and rent homes in the neighboring
    communities. Organize ride shares to transport students to campus. Hit
    ResEd were it hurts, their bottom line. ResEd is the worst of Stanford
    bureaucracy, killing fun (and good food) for more than a decade. -Class of 07

  • 2012 alum
  • Not surprised…

    Oh Please, what do you expect? there are so many other conflicts of interest in the way this university operates. Don’t even get me started on Construction and Real Estate… Arillaga, you know that great alum who donates so much and has half the campus is named after him… yeah well he owns Vance Brown Construction, the very company that builds those and many other expensive buildings thatdont bear his name, including athletic facilities, the Hoover Pavilion reconstruction, and Stanford Stadium. Can the Daily please explore this topic? We should all be aware.

  • http://twitter.com/BrendanOByrne Brendan O’Byrne

    ResEd
    Row Office: (650) 723-0778
    Central Office: (650) 725-2800
    East Campus: (650) 724-1545
    West Campus: (650) 723-1521

    Call them if you feel strongly about this.

  • Suites resident

    Definitely worthy of a protest. This is bs.

  • Well

    Ha, fair enough, but just to make it clear, I did choose my words carefully. I was very close to omitting the ROTC part since they did burn the building down, but I decided to leave it in because the point still stands: if you want change, online petitions aren’t going to cut it. I’m not saying you have to burn a building, but you have to realize that students put more effort than signing their name on a petition to make change happen at Stanford.

  • curious

    not really sure what’s wrong with an alumni donating to his school or owning a construction company…can you elaborate?

  • Replay

    I think it’s very clear that if you’re “donating” for a building to be built, but then have your company build it. One that will collect fees for doing so, fees that will most likely surpass those of which arillaga donated. And if not, the projects at the very least are keeping the company stable. Interestingly enough, there was a rapid increase in construction and VB involvement when the economy… And the industry, took a turn for the worst.

  • ok, but…

    There’s still a reasonable argument to be made that the university and student body benefit from the arrangement with arriaga. It is not new or unexpected for universities to operate on alumni favors of various kinds. I take it you are insinuating that the university favor’s Arriaga’s projects not because the university benefits, but because someone is actively interested in the support of Arriaga’s firm for its own sake?

    That’s not impossible, but you are doing a disservice to the thoroughness and meticulousness of the research and argument presented in the article to assert that these are the clearly the same.

  • http://www.facebook.com/caroline.marks.35 Caroline Marks

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I lived in suites for a year and wouldn’t have changed a thing. Keep Frank!

  • moa

    ResEd is NOT student housing.

  • Curious

    Actually I think the donation is structured such that the building itself is the “donation.” Ie the company doesn’t collect fees from the university – they build a building at the cost of materials and labor and turn it over the the school when they finish. It actually seems like a really efficient way of doing things because “amount” of the donation is less than it would be if the university hired an outside contractor. Financial efficiency at its best.

    I may be wrong about this, but I highly doubt Arillaga donates a chunk of money to the school and then says, “Hey, I’ll build it too if you pay me back.” Sounds like a giant waste of time for the accountants and lawyers involved. I always heard this rumor while I was at school there but I just don’t buy it. Lay off the old man he helps out just as much as the Bings.

  • HotDog

    Begin a rolling student boycott by teaming up with your friends and terminating your housing contracts with R&DE for this upcoming Spring Quarter. Then have fun searching out room and board alternatives. Get an RV off craigslist and park it on Palm Drive. Or just rent a room off campus with some friends. You can be as creative as you’d like :D

  • Jenny

    Make a difference — sign the official Senate petition: http://senate.stanford.edu/main/petitions/view.php?id=37

  • Jim

    Suck it up Stanford. There’s nothing special about you.

  • John

    A fair point. I simply want to adress the controversy of your argument. As a former Stanford student and current American Soldier I am deeply concerned that you feel that the Vietnam era anti-military mood is something to be applauded. It is not.

  • Eric

    Seriously. I’m tired of all these elitist kids complaining about their food…

  • Eric

    Hahaha “save the world”

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