Petition divides college community as administration welcomes Creative Dining Services. Many staff members have condemned outsourcing since last 2020, when the College partnered with ABM Industries for custodial services.
As Outlook’s signature notification sound hit their eardrums, The College of Wooster’s faculty members found an unusual email on their screens. “Significant decisions have been made that affect the College and our work as faculty,” read the email. “Do you feel like your voice and perspective is being actively sought in governing the College? Is your perspective being incorporated into decisions? How effective is Wooster’s culture of shared governance? Whatever your answer, please consider coming to an informal/open meeting of the faculty at 5 p.m. on April 1.” The email, signed by Jeffrey Lindberg, Amyaz Moledina, Madonna Hettinger, Pam Frese, Joan Friedman, Laura Burch, Greg Shaya and Jeff Roche, advocated for “shared governance” at the College. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), shared governance is “…the joint responsibility of faculty, administrations, and governing boards to govern colleges and universities. Differences in the weight of each group’s voice on a particular issue should be determined by the extent of its responsibility for and expertise on that issue.”
While the email indicated no single incident on behalf of the administration, signs point towards a flurry of emails sent by President Sarah Bolton to the campus community from Jan. 5 to 11, including her resignation from Wooster, a rise in comprehensive fees at the College and the outsourcing of the College’s custodial and dining services. The latter decision particularly led to criticism from dining and custodial staff employees, as the decision was only made by Bolton, Mike Taylor, Marjorie Shamp and Bolton’s “senior team,” including Jim Prince, Dean Hernandéz and Provost Lisa Perfetti. Bolton’s team also notified the College’s board of trustees before the decision to outsource services was made by the administration. The College’s custodial and dining staff did not know about the move to outsource these services until after the decision made by the administration. “No one in campus dining or custodial knew what was going on,” said one dining staff member, as members of the College’s administration broke the news to custodial and dining staff in Scheide Music Center over winter break.
A week after faculty members met at an unknown location to discuss Lindberg et al.’s email, Bolton announced that the College decided to partner with Creative Dining Service (CDS) as their new dining partner. “As we plan this transition, which will take place in July, the thriving of our people – our students, our dining staff, and our campus as a whole – is our very top priority,” said Bolton. CDS, a Michigan-based company, met with the campus on March 10 in the Governance Room. While the event was mainly attended by the College’s administration, members of the College’s living wage campaign also attended the event. At the meeting, CDS executives promised staff members the retention of current benefits, specific and expanded meal plans for various groups on campus, open communication with the community and a complete overhaul of “the entire dining ecosystem.” The College’s Living Wage campaign posted an infographic summary of the meeting on instagram, stating that “CDS has established partnerships with companies that employ prison labor.”
On April 8, Bolton and Prince met with dining staff members in the “Lowry ballroom” on the same day, announcing CDS as their new employer. One dining staff member claimed that when Bolton was asked what would happen to their sick time, she said CDS would answer the question on April 12. “I believe she did not want to answer because the answer was not favorabl[e] to us,” said the staff member.
A document obtained by the Voice lists CDS’ benefits for staff members:
Options for individuals transitioning to Creative Dining
a.) An employee can elect to take a 100 percent payout of their current vacation bank on or before June 30, 2022 with the understanding they can request time off but may have some days that would be unpaid because they have not accrued enough vacation time.
b.) An employee can elect to take a payout of their current bank and keep up to 80 hours (if they have that much left over) of their vacation time to be placed in vacation time to be placed
c.) An employee can take 100 percent of their vacation bank and transfer into the Creative Dining PTO bank to be accessed at their discretion effective July 1, 2022.
For those transitioning to Creative Dining
-10% of the remaining sick time will be paid out by the College as of June 30, 2022.
-Unused sick time accrued at the College of Wooster will be honored by Creative Dining through June 20, 2024 (two years.)
-Employees will begin earning PTO at Creative Dining on July 1, 2022, based on their seniority.
Health Insurance Deductible:
-For those transitioning to Creative Dining
–From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2022, staff can transfer over remaining deductibles.
-Once staff move over to Creative Dining insurance program (by Jan. 1, 2023), premiums will remain at the level being paid by The College of Wooster employees going forward, as long as employee continues to work for Creative Dining on the College of Wooster campus. (Similar to what you are paying this year.)
For staff transitioning to Creative Dining on the Wooster Campus, [sic]
-Dependent eligibility for Tuition Exchange Benefit continues with the same requirements as for College of Wooster employees.
-Staff and dependents are eligible for full tuition scholarship to the College of Wooster employees.”
While CDS said staff members are eligible for tuition benefits, one faculty member told the Voice that taxes may hinder these benefits, due to the staff members no longer being an official employee of the College.
A campus dining employee also claims staff members will also lose money from their medical insurance’s flex spending account. “One staff member is going to lose $2,000 of [their] own hard-earned money,” said the dining staff member.
As students finished lunch on April 12, Burch and “a group of faculty” sent an email to the campus community, condemning the College’s outsourcing decision-process. “As you may be aware, the College of Wooster’s administration has recently decided to outsource our dining and custodial services.” Burch also said the College “reorganized” their copy center, a decision not publicly announced by the College. “A group of faculty have drafted a statement opposing these decisions, and we are seeking support from the larger campus community: staff, students, faculty, retirees, and alumni,” said Burch.
The petition denounced the College’s decision due to a lack of transparency, disrespect towards the College’s staff through an ongoing pandemic, and a “contradiction” of student graduate qualities. The petition called for shared governance along with the “immediate cessation of all outsourcing efforts for all labor sectors of College of Wooster employees.”
While the petition received 698 signatures, the majority of faculty, staff and students did not sign the petition, many citing an overabundance of faculty power, a lack of details and outsourcing benefits.
James Moline, a receiving clerk in Campus Dining/Conference Services, believes members of the campus community acted too late. “I personally am in favor of the process moving forward at this point in time. I believe halting it now, especially to [the] Custodial Department which has lost half its staff and is in a crisis mode, is counterproductive and harmful to the effectiveness of either service.” Moline continued, “These points of halting the process should have been brought forward early in February. Now it’s like trying to steer a semi truck going 50 miles an hour to make a U-turn on a two-lane highway.” According to a source familiar to the situation, the Custodial Department currently has only 17 out of 48 custodians necessary to maintain the College, with upwards of six custodians quitting per week. “We want out for the fact that we’re not good enough to work for the College anymore,” said one custodian.
As of April 19, Bolton has yet to respond to the petition, as her Wooster presidency dwindles down amidst a fractured and frustrated campus.