In two weeks, the Knox administration will be deciding whether or not to renew Bon Appétit’s contract. It seems that most likely the administration will be renewing the contract and having Bon Appétit here for five years at a bare minimum. Having outsourced food management goes against Knox values and traditions in many ways.
One of the outcomes of having Bon Appétit here for the long run is that the cost of our meal plans will likely increase. Currently, Knox’s meal plan cost $1,500 per term, however Lawrence University and Oberlin College (who both have Bon Appétit) have more expensive meal plans; $1,600 at Lawrence and between $2,001 and $2,506 (yearly fees divided by 3) at Oberlin. Because of the increase in cost, outsourcing Knox College Dining Services goes against our history of being a work college and our commitment to financial aid.
In the past year, many Knox College Dining Services Employees have been mistreated and abused, they have been banned from talking to one another while working, they have been banned from talking to students, and have been yelled at, talked down to, demeaned, and reassigned to different positions within Dining Services. The abhorrent treatment of Knox College Dining Services employees invalidates our ideals of One Community and Knox’s history of being committed to the abolishment of slavery around the world. Some students think that the poor treatment of Dining Services employees comes down solely to a couple bad apples, however if you look at how workers are treated at other college cafeterias who have also outsourced you will see it is more of an issue with the corporate model, and not solely a couple bad apples, although it might be a combination of both. For example, this past February, Bon Appétit at Macalester College fired en masse nine disabled employees. It is not simply a case of bad management. Outsourced Dining Services management treats workers poorly at many colleges; we are not an isolated case. The problem isn’t simply the managers; it is the corporate system.
In the past year, students have seen the quality of the food go down, ingredients labelling all but completely disappear, and the variety of food and the amount of choices go down. There have been spikes in the amount of students who have had cases of food poison, the amount of students who have had preventable allergic reactions to food, and the amount of nights that both students and dining services employees have left the caf hungry after not finding anything good to eat. Previously, Max Wallace, Dining Services chair, has said that there has been an increase in food options with Bon Appétit, but this is not the case. The statement is inaccurate as most of the options that are being counted are simply different parts of a ‘Bar or World.’ For example, if Bon Appétit were to have a french fry bar, with two types of fries, two cheese sauces, two types of chili and some other toppings, the toppings should not be counted as they are condiments and not the main part of the dish. Outside of the caf, Bon Appétit has taken away the ability for the supervisors of the Gizmo and C-Store to order their own stock. This has caused to Gizmo and C-Store to have as little consistency as the caf has under Bon Appétit, moreover the supervisors have to deal with students who are disappointed that the items that they once loved and enjoyed are no longer available.
As a student body, we have been putting forward these issues since the very start of the year. We have addressed our problems on social media; we have attended forums put on by student senate; and we have met with administrators. But after all of this we cannot assume that the administration does not know what is going on. We do know that they have not acknowledged our complainants nor have they promised to make things better. The majority of the student body that lives on-board wants Knox College Dining Services to be self-operated once again. When the administration makes the decision about whether or not to keep Bon Appétit, the Student Body must be considered. Our tuition is what pays their salary, because of this, the administration should try to work for the current students and have our needs and desires come before alumni and prospective students. The Knox College administration needs should obtain consent of the governed before deciding the outcome of Knox College Dining Services. The administration works for us, we pay them.