On the afternoon of Tues., May 3 a small group of faculty members and a handful of students gathered in the Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall to hear President Sarah Bolton speak on her administration’s decision to outsource Dining and Custodial Services. A larger group of faculty and staff members also gathered remotely over Zoom. Bolton began the meeting by rehashing the decision-making process and addressing questions that have frequently come up with regards to outsourcing. She described the decision as one driven by a need to “meet the demands of students” in addition to “managing complicated staffing needs.” While the meeting focused primarily on the outsourcing of dining, Bolton mentioned that they are still much earlier in the custodial outsourcing process. In an email sent out on the same day, the College informed the campus community that two final candidates for the outsourcing of custodial services, National Management and Marsden/Scioto, would be presenting on May 5 and May 6 respectively.
President Bolton continued her opening remarks by reiterating the expertise that Creative Dining Services (CDS) demonstrates and by summarizing the driving forces behind the ultimate decision: “The priorities in making these decisions were really, first, [based] around the needs of our students, and also, very much on supporting our staff.” She concluded by restating that the these decisions were made in response to student demands as well as stating that CDS’s “main goal is to find the right ways to make themselves a place that people want to work – that good people want to work and stay – so, they are not financially motivated to cut costs.” Following Bolton’s opening statement, the meeting took on a town hall format and opened up to questions.
With regards to the outsourcing of Custodial and Dining Services, Dr. Amyaz Moledina, Associate Professor of Economics & Business Economics; Global and International Studies, asked President Bolton “does urgency justify the way folks have been overlooked?” Moledina framed his question by remarking on the lack of transparency and collaboration, “the things we are supposed to teach our students.” Bolton responded by admitting that “there are ways to do the process better than we did it.” She continued, “I can’t responsibly, and I know that the board feels this way as well, we can’t responsibly say we’re [going to] hit the pause button and redo.” Later in the town hall, Moledina also pressed Bolton on why the faculty had not been presented with financial data or a financial report regarding the outsourcing. This was part of the faculty’s demands in the petition released on April 12.
Mark Gooch, the Collection Management and Discovery Services Librarian, followed up by asking President Bolton how she intends to alter the process and include the broader campus community. “There are [going to] be important things for us to think about next year. For example, faculty bringing us their thoughts about financial stability, and there were really important conservations raised yesterday at the faculty meeting about faculty and staff retention,” Bolton responded after saying she is in conversation with incoming Interim President Wayne Webster about issues such as these and how they ought to be included in a new “governance arranged around these questions.” Bolton concluded by saying that she certainly believes they can do better in the future and detailed how some of Wooster’s peer institutions are “formalizing a shared governance process that goes beyond what we have in the Statute of Instruction, which is a document that lays out the particular rights and responsibilities of the board and faculty.” Shared governance lays out a framework for decision-making, advising and how consultation is carried out in conjunction with those roles beyond formal College statutes.
Dr. Ng Wee Siang Margaret, Associate Professor of History; Archaeology; Chinese Studies, inquired about the College’s plans for there being a hypothetical need for the College to breach the contract with CDS. Concerns were further raised over potential financial penalties or other sanctions placed on the College by CDS. Bolton stated that she believes the real penalty would be their inability to provide the campus community what it needs. “The financial penalty is actually not the thing I would worry about. What I would worry about is providing dining to our students; there is a financial penalty because we have a signed contract.”
Also present at the town hall was Jim Prince, Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer, who was asked by Voice reporters about his previous role as Treasurer at Kalamazoo College where, under his tenure, Kalamazoo outsourced with CDS (they had already been outsourcing with another company, but had grown dissatisfied with their performance). Mr. Prince was asked if their partnering with CDS was at all connected with Wooster’s decision to partner with the same vendor. Prince responded by saying “My relationship with Creative Dining had nothing to do with my connection to my last institution.” He further elaborated on how the College originally engaged with a consultancy that independently gauged the College’s list of potential partners. Prince continued by saying that this consultancy helped the College “think through who are some of the best companies out there?” Bolton and Prince, throughout the town hall, continued to express their faith in CDS’s future relationship with the campus community.