Bolton and Staley defend the College’s decision-making process and outsourcing.
After an anticipative week, President Sarah Bolton and Sally Staley, Chair of The College of Wooster’s board of trustees, responded to the “Statement Against Outsourcing at the College of Wooster, April 19, 2022,” a petition started by Laura Burch and a group of faculty. First, Bolton and Staley addressed the petition’s clause which states that the administration made the decision to outsource their services without mission-based rationale.” “As shared with the community over the last four months, the decision to work with outside partners to lead dining and custodial services was entirely mission-based,” wrote Bolton and Staley. Bolton and Staley cite food preparation along with “caring for spaces and health” as central to their mission-based reasoning for outsourcing, stating that “…the College has been really struggling to provide these crucial services, and facing increasing difficulties in doing so over multiple years (including before the pandemic),” In a January interview with the Wooster Voice, Bolton cited COVID-19 and the College’s “Connect, Create, Discover” strategic plan for reasons to outsource. “[O]ne of the pieces of [the strategic plan] is that we would carefully think about whether there were any places where the college should think about working with outside partners or contractors,” Bolton said in January.
Staley and Bolton then took on the petition’s claim that the outsourcing decision did not use“precise data.” Our due diligence, involving interviews with people from many campuses, was thorough. While Bolton and Staley did not specifically name these “people from many campuses,” Jim Prince, Vice President of Finance and Business at the College, had experience working at institutions that outsourced their dining services. “My role was to bring to the president some thoughts on [outsourcing],” said Prince in January. “Part of that was due to the fact that I worked at other institutions where we have outsourced so I brought to her my background in both the positive and negative aspects of outsourcing.” One of those institutions was Kalamazoo College, where Prince served as a Vice President for Business and Finance from 2009 to 2019, who also partnered with Creative Dining Services.
A contradiction emerged from the response and previous statements made by Bolton, as Bolton told the Voice in January that outsourcing dining and custodial services “Once we understood that we really felt we needed to go this direction, we certainly included other people on campus, like Marjorie Shamp and Mike Taylor in our conversation, but the decision is mine and I want to be super clear that that shouldn’t lean on somebody else.”
While Bolton told the Voice in January that outsourcing was an administrative decision, Staley and Bolton’s response to the petition frame the outsourcing decision as “the Board’s decision. “Once we understood that we really felt we needed to go this direction,” Bolton said in January, “we certainly included other people on campus, like Marjorie Shamp and Mike Taylor in our conversation, but the decision is mine and I want to be super clear that that shouldn’t lean on somebody else.”
“The last thing I would say is that we did share with the board that we were leaning in this direction but again this is not a board-level decision, it is an administrative decision,” Bolton also told the Voice in January. Staley and Bolton’s response to the petition appear to contradict Bolton’s January remarks, as the response states, “The Statement Against Outsourcing states there is no clear-mission based reason for the Board’s decisions to outsource dining and custodial services.”
One of the petition’s major concerns was staff benefits, including tuition exchange and sick time. Bolton and Staley assured the community that tuition benefits will continue for dining and custodial staff members. Other benefits, however, are under CDS’ administration. “Partner companies may well have benefits that differ in some ways from ours – perhaps being stronger in some areas and less strong in others.” Several staff members expressed concerns over sick time, as the College will pay out 10% of an employee’s sick time by June 30, 2022, and CDS will honor unused sick time until June 20, 2024, forcing some staff members to spend all their sick time in a limited time frame. “It is unlikely that I can use 960 hours off [sic] sick time in two years,” said one dining employee.
One of the petition’s main points was “shared governance,” which “refers to the joint responsibility of faculty, administrations, and governing boards to govern colleges and universities.”
While Bolton and Staley said they “value” the concept, they stood behind the exclusive decision to outsource their services. “The responsibility for effective campus business operations, including the safety and well-being of all members of the Wooster community in support of our mission, lies with the administration and the board.”
Regarding the petition’s demands, Bolton and Staley wrote that “We cannot responsibly allow the difficult situation with these critical operations to continue when it is clear that outside companies provide the support we need.”
The College will hold an in-person meeting to discuss this topic on Tuesday, May 3, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. As of April 26, the College has not announced a location for the meeting.