Letter from Faculty Members

Désirée Weber
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Joan S. Friedman
Lincoln Professor of Religion and Professor of History

 

 

 

The recently announced decisions to outsource the College’s dining staff and to pursue outsourcing the custodial staff raise important questions about the nature of our campus community. 

These are complex and difficult decisions in all regards. But deciding that outsourcing, rather than some other solution, is the best course of action raises bigger questions about the College’s values and decision-making processes. 

The coincidence of the pandemic and the Lowry renovations created a perfect storm that exacerbated the difficult work conditions that we have heard about both from administration and dining workers themselves:  chronic under-staffing, increasing and changing demands, and too few resources to accomplish their assigned tasks.  But how did it transpire that these temporary, extraordinary circumstances led to what will be a permanent decision? 

As faculty members, we are in some sense not directly affected by this decision, nor will we suffer any consequences for speaking up.  Thus we are mindful simultaneously of the obligation not to presume to speak for others, but also of the obligation to use whatever power we have, if it can do some good.  So this letter comes after receiving assurances that it reflects the concerns of employees who are in situations that make them hesitate to speak for themselves.  

We therefore want to raise these issues to the whole campus community, as it is all of our responsibility. We as a community should be able to know why the decision to outsource and not to pursue other alternatives was made; how the decision-making process unfolded; who was included in that process; and when and how various constituencies were either consulted or notified about the decision. And whether this process to outsource will continue. 

Each of these points deserves careful consideration. But all of them point back to the College’s values: to be inclusive to all of its members, including students, faculty, and staff in all areas of the College’s operations, from administrative positions to hourly and part-time employees. 

At the very least, the decision to outsource is a move to exclude a set of staff that was previously part of this community – who shared in carrying out the mission and enjoyed the benefits of its values – to be employees of another entity entirely. The College has sought to allay this point of concern by reminding us that the College will evaluate the contract annually and consider its renewal every five years. However, this does not mitigate the stark fact that these affected staff will from here on out not be under the College’s direct decision-making umbrella – nor included in its community. And it should be clear that that is a decision that affects us all and makes us all worse off.