Discourse / Letters / February 17, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Student organization voices opinion on Bon Appétit

To: Keith Archer, CFO, President Teresa Amott, and the Knox College Board of Trustees

Concerning Dining Services and Its Management Under Bon Appétit

When the school year began at Knox College in September, we approached Bon Appétit’s new management of Dining Services with an open mind, although this is not to say we lacked skepticism towards these changes. Throughout the fall term, we became increasingly aware that Bon Appétit’s leadership was unable to meet even the most elementary standards of food management. One issue to note is its inability to handle student allergies. Students with severe allergies are unable to get the proper information needed to make informed decisions on what they are eating. This is due to Bon Appétit’s policy of having a non-rotating menu at the Hard Knox Café. Yet those who have met with Chef Jason Crouch and General Manager Diane Welker (as they have been instructed to) have been met with very short term solutions at best, and at worst, empty offices. For students who are vegetarian or vegan, finding a full meal can be equally challenging. In some instances, vegetarian and vegan students have accidentally eaten meat and dairy products due to an utter lack of labeling or food simply being mislabeled. Food products are often placed so that vegetarian/vegan products are susceptible to contamination by meat and dairy products. A similar fate falls upon halal and other food specifications.

Another issue that we would like to bring attention to is the mistreatment and abuse of Dining Services employees. The general manager micro-manages employees, which not only cuts down on worker morale but also productivity. This is part of a greater issue with Bon Appétit’s management at Knox, which lacks understanding of Knox College’s Dining Services before this year. This lack of understanding and the management’s unwillingness to learn extends to the general student body and the employees of Knox College’s Dining Services. On top of micromanagement, Dining Services employees are regularly disrespected and ignored regardless of how much experience they have at Knox, in the culinary field or their current position.

Additionally, the overall quality of the food has greatly diminished since Bon Appétit has arrived at Knox. Many of the options available are often over or undercooked, over or under seasoned, and there is simply no consistency; again, this lack of consistency makes finding food a hassle for people with dietary restrictions. When we found out last year that Bon Appétit would be coming to Knox, the student body was initially optimistic with the selection as we thought it would lead to a better quality of food; however, we were mistaken. Many of the dishes now are either very starchy or very greasy, which leads to students, even those without dietary restrictions, becoming sick. This past January, the Knox College Student Senate’s Dining Services Committee held a forum on the recent changes made to the college’s dining services. This forum was originally intended to be held in the Round Room in the Center for Fine Arts (CFA), which seats 74 people. The number of those in attendance at the forum forced the location of the event to be moved to the much larger Harbach Theatre. The forum was attended by 150-200 students and members of the Knox community. It lasted three hours, two hours longer than expected, and allowed attendees to voice various concerns, some of which we have addressed in this letter.  

Teresa Amott has mentioned on several occasions that four years ago, a group of students brought her a petition asking her to bring Bon Appétit to Knox College as its dining service provider. It must be pointed out that these students have all since graduated.  We respect and understand the desires of these former students, but the administration must now take the current students’ views into consideration.  While the current student body of Knox did choose Bon Appétit last year, we would like to point out that we were given only two options: Bon Appétit and Sodexo. If we had been given a third option, we as a student body would have picked a non-corporate manager.  

 

Alliance for Peaceful Action

 

Requests from the Student Body

 

  • Begin the search for a non-corporate new head of Dining Services, who would take up where Helmut Mayer left off.

 

If having non-corporate management is unfeasible:

 

  • Replace the general manager, preferably with someone who knows the Knox-Galesburg culture or has experience at a small liberal arts college.
  • Allow more students to live on campus while not being on board.
  • Ensure that students know who specifically will be running Dining Services next year, and that students have a chance to meet this person and help with the decision on who is hired.
  • Overall, the student body needs more transparency and open communication between all levels of administration.
TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  alliance for peaceful action bon appetit dining services Knox College letter to the editor

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