Hoping to cut tuition costs, Wooster will conduct assessment to investigate benefits of switching services
In a research project that will take several months to complete, the College will consider the cost and benefits of outsourcing its Dining Services department, which is currently run in-house, as a means to cut costs while tuition continues to rise. Though the College will consider running the department as it has in the past, if it does indeed decide to outsource, management would be taken over by an outside company.
In an e-mail sent to the Voice, Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services and Special Projects Jackie Middleton explained that the College will, in the coming year, “conduct a full assessment of the College’s institutionally-run Dining Services.”
The self-assessment process will include members of the Student Dining Committee, three members of the Staff Committee, and the Financial Advisory Committee (a twelve-person committee which includes six faculty-selected members, five cabinet officers and the chair of the Staff Committee) all of whom will act as the assessment’s Steering Committee. The process will take approximately nine months, and will focus on financial costs, the quality of services, the human resources effects on employees, the efficiency and control of management, and the impact of any of the tentative plans on the College’s mission and culture.
In a “fireside chat” held this past Monday evening with concerned students President Cornwell expressed to that Wooster is behind its peer institutions, such as Kenyon, that have already outsourced the management of their Dining Services departments. “If you texted your friends at other colleges, almost none of them would say that [Dining Services] is done in house,” Cornwell said. “None of our peers in Ohio do it that way.”
Dean Holmes, who was also at the chat, added that it will take a while before any changes take place. “It would not be any earlier than fall of 2014,” said Holmes. “It’s not the sort of thing you’d want to rush.”
Assured by Cornwell and Holmes that their opinions would be heard before any decisions were made, students at the chat primarily expressed concerns regarding the job security of Dining Services’ staff, their benefits, and their pay if such a change were implemented. Cornwell explained that the staff is his primary concern and would be central throughout the process. Their job security is a major stipulation in any deal that is made that would change ownership of the school’s dining services. “If [the College] goes with [a firm, it] would have to go with all our staff, and the staff would become employees of the firm, and would be evaluated by that firm,” Cornwell said. “They are employees that really care about their jobs.”
Adding some clarity to what that would entail, Middleton explained that if a new operation is ultimately selected, a plan for transitioning services over to the firm would first be developed, and that such a plan would require that all employees would remain employed with comparable compensation.