OPINIONS

A Response to Nate Boswell and ResEd

Note: To view Boswell’s original statement, to which this piece is a reply, click here.

Effective now, and until Suites officially remains independent, this weekly column will now be an update on the situation at Suites Dining.

Before I continue, I would like to formally apologize for some of the fliers distributed at the Save Suites protest two days ago. I’ll be very specific: I apologize for the Zac Sargeant/Nick Peters “brothers-in-crime” flier that was distributed. It was over-the-top and justifiably received negative feedback from attendees. As the de facto organizer of the event, I take full responsibility for not personally screening all the fliers beforehand to check them for appropriateness and respect. It will not happen again.

Second, a big thank-you to those of you who showed up – including ResEd Associate Dean Nate Boswell, who courageously stepped up and took a lot of flak from an angry crowd (and from me marching around with a megaphone). That takes a certain willingness to engage with student discontent, and I (and others present at the protest) appreciated that very much.

Boswell’s response in yesterday’s Daily, unfortunately, provided few additional answers to students’ questions, and the answers we did get were misleading. I’d like to respectfully set the record straight.

First, Mr. Boswell claimed that Suites is “more expensive by $600-per-student-per-year than what students in most residences pay for board.” That claim is misleading because it compares apples to oranges; the cheaper residences to which Boswell referred are conventional freshman-style dorms, which have always been cheaper but do not afford their residents the autonomy, managerial experience and living environment that are the reasons Stanford developed independent living in the first place. Suites board bill costs are actually, as I pointed out in my original article, nearly identical to those of other similarly independent student-run houses on campus, and we provide more food for the same price ($5,999 per student per year for 17 meals per week in Suites, $5,992 for 10 meals per week on the corporate-managed Row.)

Second, Mr. Boswell claimed that there are three lawsuits pending against Suites’ Governor’s Corner Dining Societies (GCDS) and the University. That claim is also misleading and rhetorically inflates the volume of legal actions actually ongoing; all three lawsuits were filed by the same person at the same time for the same set of reasons. And as his letter to the editor today demonstrates, that one person unequivocally opposes ResEd’s decision to use his lawsuit as leverage against Suites Dining student management.

Furthermore, eliminating any entity which has a lawsuit filed against it, regardless of the lawsuit’s merit (about which I am legally forbidden from commenting), seems to make little sense. I can talk about lawsuits against the many third-party entities that operate on this campus all day long. Why is it only Suites Dining, the long-standing student nonprofit with an otherwise clean record, to whom the “a lawsuit has been filed, therefore we’re automatically getting rid of you” standard is applied?

Third, Boswell did not mention that, as I documented in my original article, ResEd’s ostensible health and safety concerns are unsupported by the actual data.

Other than that, Boswell didn’t give me any other substantive points to refute, so I’m done defending Suites’ record – a record that doesn’t seem to need any more defending. But besides the absence of factual data to justify the Suites takeover, there’s something else missing from Boswell’s reply: an apology.

There has been no apology for regularly delaying payments to vendors for weeks, causing them to complain to Suites student managers.

There has been no apology for forgetting to pay Bollard’s water bill in September and only reimbursing Frank for paying that bill four months later, in January.

There has been no apology for delaying the reimbursement of a club manager for his stereo purchase for over a month and a half.

There has been no apology from R&DE for failing to fix the infrastructure for which they are responsible – a well-documented list of failures about which I could go into great detail (email me).

There has been no apology for failing to pay Suites hashers for over two months – many of whom, from personal experience and conversation, needed the money very much and very quickly.

There has been no apology from ResEd Assistant Director Zac Sargeant for barging into and shutting down, in blatant violation of Stanford’s own Living Wage Policy, a private meeting of workers trying to organize for higher wages from his brother-in-law’s company.

There has been no apology for completely failing to notify Suites residents of ResEd’s decision to end student management, for failing to consult them in any way about the dismissal of their long-serving chefs before making that decision, or for attempting to make that decision behind closed doors and only discussing it at all after a newspaper exposé, 2,500 petition signatures, and a 120-person mass march.

There has been no apology for telling a reporter false information – that there were multiple fires at Suites, for example, when there were not.

There has been no apology for failing to send Student Affairs Officer Tiffany Taylor, who is supposed to supervise Suites regularly, to visit all year.

There has been no apology for emptying the Suites Eating Clubs carryover fund, used to pay for emergency chef health benefits and capital expenditures, without any explanation or warning, causing managers’ summer checks to bounce.

We as students deserve at least some semblance of an apology from ResEd, because these are not the high professional standards we as Stanford students have come to expect and enjoy from our excellent Stanford administrators, the vast majority of whom do wonderful, high-quality work on the job every day.

But instead of an apology from ResEd, we got an attempt at a cover-up – an attempt to make it seem as though ResEd’s mistakes had never happened. The manager who purchased the stereo in December finally got his reimbursement check this weekend – with no apology for the delay. Tiffany Taylor was finally spotted at Suites after a year’s near-complete absence. And Suites managers have suddenly begun receiving helpful emails from R&DE – with overly friendly emoticons in them, no less.

It isn’t Suites’ residents turn to explain our actions anymore. It’s your turn now, ResEd and R&DE, to explain your actions to the student body.

Suites residents and managers know we have responsibilities as students who want to live and work independently – responsibilities to keep a clean living environment, to pay our chefs a living wage, to deliver high-quality food. Suites managers have – as any look at the specific data will tell you – met those responsibilities.

You have responsibilities too, ResEd. Responsibilities to pay your bills on time, to tell the truth, to adhere to Stanford policy and to communicate clearly with students.

We hope that as we move forward toward a solution with which all parties can be happy – a solution we all want and can agree upon – ResEd keeps those responsibilities in mind too.

Contact Miles at milesu1@stanford.edu.

  • Anne

    Very well done Miles, I have been reading all the articles related to Suites. I’m Diego’s mom and very proud of my son for hashing at Suites. He has learned valuable lessons for life and earned good money to help pay for his education. I keep positive and wish the best for the Chef’s and their eating clubs to continue working and providing the best food at Stanford.

  • miles for president

    Miles, this is class A journalism and activism. ResEd should know better than to play students as qualified as you, and the rest of the student body. I don’t think they will underestimate us again. Let’s keep this truck rollin

  • Skeptical Suites resident

    Where are the current GCDS CEO and CFO on this? Why are they not commenting, not involved, and more importantly, not supporting your cause? If keeping GCSD student run means so much to students, why are the students actually currently running in not championing the cause?

  • not the CEO or CFO

    There is some level of disconnect that is necessary to keep this process professional. The current CEO and CFO (as well as some of the current managers) are involved in the litigation, as well as have been working with ResEd for many months and want to keep that relationship strong enough to be able to have a reasonable relationship going forward. That is, if ResEd allows students to continue in the management role only with increased ResEd oversight, there needs to be a strong foundation in order to prevent something like this from happening again next year. The management is completely pro-suites traditions, do not doubt this. The efforts of current and former CEOs and CFOs have unfortunately gone unrecognized because they are not able to be public matters. But again, do not doubt that they have and will do everything possible to maintain suites’ traditions.

  • Former Beef Manager

    If you make your house out of s*it, you have to live in it.

    The CEO and CFO work with these people on a weekly, if not daily basis. If they were to come out and publicly bash any of ResEd or RD&E, I’m sure their lives would be a living hell for the next few months. I’m sure you have seen comments from past CEOs and CFOs, but you probably won’t see comments from either Maria or Aaron.

  • student

    Miles you are an absolute, standout campus leader. You conduct yourself professionally and intelligently and you’ve inspired a whole campus to begin to stand up against an unaccountable, bureaucratic ResEd that has clearly lost its way, and you did it not with pithy signs but with hard, well researched journalism. Stanford should be (and, I’ve no doubt, will be) proud to have had you.

  • Aaron K

    The answer to that question is incredibly simple. Maria and I have and will continue to spend our time working directly with ResEd, the Chefs, and the community to come up with a SOLUTION that satisfies everyone. It is not our job to write articles (thankfully so as we both doubt anyone could do a better job than Miles). Our jobs are first and foremost to ensure that we are providing the best service we can to you guys as current residents, and ensure that day to day operations continue to run smoothly. Secondly, our job is to ensure the future success of our organization and create a model where in everyone can win. That doesn’t happen without support from the community. That doesn’t happen without support from our Chefs, and like it or not, that also doesn’t happen with out support from the University. That said, it doesn’t strike us as particularly wise to burn our bridges with the ones who hand out the contracts.

    As it turns out, we are the ones caught directly in the crossfire between the students, the chefs and the University. We want to be able to provide our fantastic chefs with the salaries and benefits they undeniably deserve. More importantly, we want to continue to provide the best food on campus to you guys, at as low a cost as possible. As Miles has pointed out in his article, a non-profit model is undeniably the most economical way to do so, as we currently provide services at cost, with no markup or overhead. Health Insurance, Workers Comp Insurance, Liability Insurance (all of which are required both by law and the university) are out of our control. And if the government decides to pass a new health care bill, those expenses can suddenly increase without warning.

    The problem is, the University tends to think in terms of dollar amounts. This isn’t ResEd who, like us, has the unfortunate position of being the bearers of bad news. This is an executive decision from the university to standardize and lower board bills across campus. The question that the community should be asking of them, is why. What is the price that students have to pay in order for this to be achieved? The harsh reality is that student run or not, suites dining will be a very different experience next year if student board bills drop by $200 a student. Given that there are 250 students in suites, you guys can go the math on how significant a difference that is in terms of an operating budget. Given that our budget is almost entirely made up of fixed costs beyond our control, we are left with little choice but to either reduce the quality of service, or reduce the salaries of the chefs. But you can’t find chefs like Dennis or Frank or Caroline or Tony who can make food that tastes twice as good for half the price, if you aren’t willing to pay them well. Given that both of these are particularly poor choices, and we don’t feel like the community should have to sacrifice in order to meet a dollar amount specified by the university. If you wanted 10 meals a week and no hot breakfast you can live on the row. If you need the flexibility of eating at different locations on campus you can get a meal plan. Those options already exist however, and a standardization of board bills inherently means a standardization of quality and service. The community has already shown amazing support for keeping suites student run and asked many of the same questions of ResEd we have been asking for months. We would encourage you to continue to ask the tough questions, and demand honest answers, but understand that ultimately this community will get what it pays for.

    So at the end of the day, for those of you who wanted to know where Maria and I have been, the answer is that we are right here, eating meals beside you as a part of your community same as always. We are still, as we have been from the day we started as CEO and CFO, working incredibly hard to make everyone happy, and ensure future residents of suites have the same privileges we have had. The reason we both took our positions with GCDS was because of how much we love this community. Thats the same reason why we sincerely hope to pass on the roles to two new individuals for next year. If you ever have questions about suites, GCDS, decisions we have made in the past or decisions we hope to make in the future, please feel free to email us or join one of us for dinner. Thank you all for the overwhelming support, and for helping us fight for the community we all share.

    Aaron

  • Skeptical

    Don’t understand your argument– they work with ResEd so they are unwilling to stand up to ResEd? as the only people within GCSD/Suites who have any personal/professional connection to ResEd, as the student leaders of this student-run enterprise (for student benefit), don’t they have a responsibility to Suites residents to speak up if they think something is wrong? After all, it’s seem like the CEO and CFO jobs are the only ones that will for sure be taken over… no one has actually said anything definitive about firing chefs or hashers. If they cared that their jobs are being taken over, why wouldn’t they say something? My guess is, it’s because they don’t necessarily agree with this.

  • ugh

    your guess is wrong. you sound like one of those people that would argue the sky is green just to separate yourself from the crowd. you also sound like someone who entertains conspiracy theories for the drama and not the facts. Please first look at the facts (Miles’ numerous articles), then look at Aaron’s (current CFO) statement below. Then, if you are still Skeptical, please go work for Fox News.

  • Alumninum

    This is precisely the same bind that the Chi Theta Chi Alumni board faced in dealing with the administration. VP Boardman and R&DE Everett bound them to stay silent during “negotiations”. XOX felt their only chance was to do what they were told and mute any criticism. Then in August, the administrators double crossed them at the end, denying that there had ever been the possibility of XOX keeping ownership of the house it had owned for 90 years, and requiring the alumni pay for capital improvements for three years in the hope of applying to merely manage the house. The problem is, the “negotiations” are a ruse, an empty exercise that keeps the student businesses thinking they are being treated on their merits, when in fact, meritocracy is gone at Student Affairs and R&DE, and something darker has taken its place.

  • Aaron K

    Because you seemed incapable of reading my response the first time I posted it in reply, maybe you’ll find it this time.

    The answer to that question is incredibly simple. Maria and I have and will continue to spend our time working directly with ResEd, the Chefs, and the community to come up with a SOLUTION that satisfies everyone. It is not our job to write articles (thankfully so as we both doubt anyone could do a better job than Miles). Our jobs are first and foremost to ensure that we are providing the best service we can to you guys as current residents, and ensure that day to day operations continue to run smoothly. Secondly, our job is to ensure the future success of our organization and create a model where in everyone can win. That doesn’t happen without support from the community. That doesn’t happen without support from our Chefs, and like it or not, that also doesn’t happen with out support from the University. That said, it doesn’t strike us as particularly wise to burn our bridges with the ones who hand out the contracts.

    As it turns out, we are the ones caught directly in the crossfire between the students, the chefs and the University. We want to be able to provide our fantastic chefs with the salaries and benefits they undeniably deserve. More importantly, we want to continue to provide the best food on campus to you guys, at as low a cost as possible. As Miles has pointed out in his article, a non-profit model is undeniably the most economical way to do so, as we currently provide services at cost, with no markup or overhead. Health Insurance, Workers Comp Insurance, Liability Insurance (all of which are required both by law and the university) are out of our control. And if the government decides to pass a new health care bill, those expenses can suddenly increase without warning.

    The problem is, the University tends to think in terms of dollar amounts. This isn’t ResEd who, like us, has the unfortunate position of being the bearers of bad news. This is an executive decision from the university to standardize and lower board bills across campus. The question that the community should be asking of them, is why. What is the price that students have to pay in order for this to be achieved? The harsh reality is that student run or not, suites dining will be a very different experience next year if student board bills drop by $200 a student. Given that there are 250 students in suites, you guys can go the math on how significant a difference that is in terms of an operating budget. Given that our budget is almost entirely made up of fixed costs beyond our control, we are left with little choice but to either reduce the quality of service, or reduce the salaries of the chefs. But you can’t find chefs like Dennis or Frank or Caroline or Tony who can make food that tastes twice as good for half the price, if you aren’t willing to pay them well. Given that both of these are particularly poor choices, and we don’t feel like the community should have to sacrifice in order to meet a dollar amount specified by the university. If you wanted 10 meals a week and no hot breakfast you can live on the row. If you need the flexibility of eating at different locations on campus you can get a meal plan. Those options already exist however, and a standardization of board bills inherently means a standardization of quality and service. The community has already shown amazing support for keeping suites student run and asked many of the same questions of ResEd we have been asking for months. We would encourage you to continue to ask the tough questions, and demand honest answers, but understand that ultimately this community will get what it pays for.

    So at the end of the day, for those of you who wanted to know where Maria and I have been, the answer is that we are right here, eating meals beside you as a part of your community same as always. We are still, as we have been from the day we started as CEO and CFO, working incredibly hard to make everyone happy, and ensure future residents of suites have the same privileges we have had. The reason we both took our positions with GCDS was because of how much we love this community. Thats the same reason why we sincerely hope to pass on the roles to two new individuals for next year. If you ever have questions about suites, GCDS, decisions we have made in the past or decisions we hope to make in the future, please feel free to email us or join one of us for dinner. Thank you all for the overwhelming support, and for helping us fight for the community we all share.

    Aaron

  • skeptical

    Thanks for your thoughtful response– too bad you had to be a jerk to someone posing questions (the way we all have accused the University of being a jerk to us), but thanks all the same.