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Kenyon & Sodexo: The Story So Far

June 12, 2012

President S. Georgia Nugent issued her first statement on the College’s proposed contract with Sodexo today. (via princeton.edu)

This afternoon, President S. Georgia Nugent made her first official statement on the College’s plan to outsource its maintenance management to Sodexo. In a long Q&A, Nugent attempted to dispel the rumors which have been circulating in the week since the College’s announcement. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Sodexo?
The French firm, which was founded in 1966, is “the leading provider of integrated food and facilities management services in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico” serving “10 million consumers in 6,000 locations every day,” and they employ nearly 380,000 people in 80 countries, according to company publicity materials.

In an interview with The Thrill this morning, Nugent cited the organization’s size as one of its chief appeals. “The size and range of Sodexo means that they have a very broad base of experience and resources. I believe they contract with approximately 800 colleges and universities in America. And so if part of what you’re trying to do is gain access to broader experience and resources, that kind of reach is an advantage.”

What is the proposal?
When United Electrical Workers, Machine and Radio Workers of America (UE) Local 712, Kenyon’s maintenance union, entered contract negotiations on June 5, they were informed that the College was in the final stages of signing a partnership with Sodexo that would give that firm managerial control over Kenyon’s maintenance operations. Nugent cautioned, however, that “one fact that is sometimes being overlooked in this discussion is that we are employing [Sodexo]; they’re not employing us. If we are not happy with the services or the practices of that organization, we won’t continue to employ them.”

Will anyone lose his or her job?
“The contract specifies that no positions will be lost,” Nugent said.

Why has Kenyon’s decision to contract with Sodexo been controversial?
The backlash to the College’s decision is due to a host of allegations that have been made about Sodexo’s labor practices, the most serious of which resulted in an $80 million settlement with thousands of black employees who, according to The New York Times, “charged that they were routinely barred from promotions and segregated within the company.”

Many students and faculty members have also taken issue with the abrupt way in which union members were informed of the decision to contract to Sodexo and the fact that the community was not consulted prior to it being made.

“I would say that we work with a little bit of tension between being the College as an academic institution where we think of everything as being open to debate and discussion. That’s one side of our identity,” Nugent said. “We are also, though, an employer, and it’s not appropriate for a person’s employment conditions to be discussed with the entire community.”

Were senior staff members aware of Sodexo’s allegedly checkered past when they selected its bid over two competing ones?
Nugent told The Thrill that the senior staff and board of trustees who approved the plan were aware of negative allegations made about Sodexo prior to approving the deal. However, she cautioned against making snap judgments. She cited, for example, a countersuit filed by Sodexo against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), alleging that the Union engaged in “unfair labor practices.”

Nugent said, “It would be easy to say, ‘well, these people have been evil.’ I think things are more complex many times, particularly in an organization that is that large. And so, we can say, ‘why would we ever work with a large organization?’ Well, this is one of the conditions of our world.”

“Do you have an iPhone?” she asked the reporter interviewing her (he does). “Do you worry about Apple? Do you ever wear Nike shoes? That’s my point. I think this is a condition of our world that there are these large, multinational corporations. They are not perfect. They are probably also not the devil. And so, one has to make judgments.”

In reference to Sodexo’s 2005 settlement, Nugent said, “My own research leads me to believe that, in fact, Sodexo experienced a serious wake up call several years ago with these allegations, and it looks to me, and what I have learned from presidents on other campuses, is that they took those concerns very seriously and have really worked to employ the best practices.”

Why Sodexo?
“Mark [Kohlman, chief business officer] and I have spoken with folks on some other campuses that contract with Sodexo,” Nugent said, “and one of the things that Mark did in visiting was to simply go around and talk to people on the grounds. And what he found was staff members who were very happy with their situation.

“A good example would be Skidmore [College]. I have spoken with Skidmore’s president about this and what we found was that the employees who are on Sodexo’s payroll actually felt themselves to be members of the Skidmore community just like they had always been. They’re not wearing Sodexo uniforms or something, and they were very happy with their employment. So that was a big factor to us.”

Nugent added, “I think in part one has to look to what an entity expresses as its values; there is certainly plenty of information that Sodexo expresses and kind of insists on values that are consistent with Kenyon’s values.”

What does the College stand to gain if the contract with Sodexo goes through?
For one, it stands to save around $500,000 a year, according to Nugent. Speaking with The Thrill, she noted that the senior staff rejected a proposal from Sodexo that would have trimmed $1 million from the annual budget. “That was not what we wanted to do,” she said. “We wanted to be sure that our employees were kept whole. We didn’t want to scrounge, if you may. And so the savings that can be realized are not related to salary or benefits. They’re related to a couple of things: the greater purchasing power that comes with a large organization; the expenditures that we will not be making on hiring external contractors, but that will come as a part of the services from Sodexo; and just being able to carry out some of our operations more efficiently.” Sodexo may also be able to manage complex work orders on buildings like the Kenyon Athletic Center which the College has had to outsource in recent years.

And what will Kenyon do with the annual savings? According to Barry Schwartz, chairman of the board of trustees, the decision “will ultimately enable Kenyon to contain and reduce costs … [and] will not impact the quality of our program at Kenyon or curtail our efforts to make the Kenyon education accessible; that is to say, it won’t adversely impact our financial aid budget. That is the hope, that it will positively impact the financial aid budget.”

What will the Sodexo contract mean for maintenance workers?
While contract negotiations with both Sodexo and UE Local 712, Kenyon’s maintenance union, are still underway, the College confirmed in a press release that eight of the non-union members who will be transitioning to Sodexo will do so “at their current salaries and will continue to receive the Kenyon or GLCA Tuition Remission program benefit as long as they work on the Kenyon campus for Sodexo. As Sodexo employees they will also receive a [Sodexo] benefits package comparable to benefits they receive at Kenyon.” According to the UE 712 President Robert Smith, however, his union is “assuming, at least, that we’re looking at deep cuts to benefits and wages through Sodexo. I don’t see how else this company can come in here and save the college the kind of money that Mark Kohlman says they’re going to save unless it’s through cuts.”

What exactly is the GLCA Tuition Remission program?
Select employees at the 13 member colleges of the Great Lakes College Association pay 15% of the mean tuition if his or her child enrolls at a GLCA institution. Speaking with The Thrill, President Nugent said, “the senior staff made the decision that those employees who are currently our employees would retain the right to the GLCA benefit. Now, let me add one other aspect there. … It is only the 23 members of the Union and eight of the maintenance staff who are being transitioned to Sodexo. That entire division of the College [including the custodial staff] is approximately 100 people. Over the past decade, 10 individuals have made use of the tuition benefit.”

If Sodexo makes new hires in the maintenance department, will they receive the tuition benefit?
“I would presume that going forward the GLCA will probably not be available to those people who were not already Kenyon employees,” Nugent said. “I think that the way I see the American economy going, it’s not going to be surprising if some extremely rich benefits have to be cut back.” However, it’s important to remember that until the union contract is finalized, any statements made about benefits in that contract are speculation.

Is this Kenyon’s first outsourced contract?
In her statement to the community, Nugent notes, “we have outsourced food service at the College since 1968, first with Saga, then Aramark (a large, multi-national company much like Sodexo) and now with AVI.”

Speaking with The Thrill, Nugent said, “I also am not ignorant of the fact that many people simply get nervous at the thought of a large corporation. So in that way it wasn’t surprising. I think what’s unfortunate now is that there is an anxiety that in many ways doesn’t have a clear content. It takes the form of, ‘this will destroy Kenyon.’ And you’ve been here long enough to know that almost any change takes the form of, ‘this will destroy Kenyon.’ Putting locks on the doors was going to destroy Kenyon. Cutting down the tree to build the art building was going to destroy Kenyon. And there’s a good side to that, which is people’s love of this place and what it is. But inevitably there will be some changes.”

What’s Next?
The College will hold an open forum on Friday, June 22, at 11:00 a.m.., and talks with UE Local 712 are slated to resume June 19, 20 and 21. Tomorrow, there is a meeting between administrators and faculty members. The union members are also planning to protest the deal on Middle Path at 11:30 a.m.

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130 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Murray permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:09 pm

    So far 1,800+ people have signed this petition against cynicism. I don’t remember efforts like this against the implementation of locks on the doors or cutting down trees for new art buildings, both of which are somehow equated with the opposition to Sodexo.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/kenyon-college-stop-kenyon-from-partnering-with-sodexo

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 12, 2012 10:31 pm

      Eh, Nugent views it that way, and to her credit, Kenyon college people really do get up in arms about things that nobody complains that much about after the fact. Perhaps not so up in arms as the Sodexo opposition, but still more than the final effect of the “change” as she calls it deserves. Her argument is that presumably, if Sodexo goes through as swimmingly as she seems to think it will, that the college will save a whole bunch of money, nobody will mention the sodexo thing ever again (just like people don’t really complain about the locks any more), and this WILL be like the locks all over again on a much larger scale. Of course that’s all predicated on a pretty big “if.”

      But if Nugent IS going to bring up the pattern of Kenyon people being a bit trigger-happy on the outrage, I’d like to point out that I know for a fact that in at least one of the cases she mentions, at least half the outrage came from the manner in which the administration informed those affected by it. Now I understand these are labor negotiations and that, for example, the student body or faculty shouldn’t be nor really wants to be informed of the minutiae most of the time. But still there seems to be a pattern of the administration only talking to anybody when it intends to hand down a decision as though from heaven.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 14, 2012 7:14 am

        I was on campus for all the controversies she references, and was very active in opposing them. It wasn’t, however, so much the change itself that had people up in arms — particularly with adding 24/7 locks to the door — but the slimy bait-and-switch tactics continually and effectively employed by the administration, by Tammy Gocial (former Dean of Students), Fred O’Connell (former CBO), and Nugent. It was the Administration’s consistently going back on its own word, breaking deals made, and dealing with the student body, the faculty, and the community at large in a disingenuous manner. She took a stance then, and continues to take it now, that none of our protests matter because “once you’re gone no one will really care.”

        And the most outrageous thing here? That she thinks, because only ten staff members have used the benefits in the last ten years, that makes it more okay to cut them. Sounds to me more like she’s going to have a harder time explaining why those benefits are so costly they have to be cut…

  2. anon permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:16 pm

    I still think Nugent doesn’t quite get what a big deal this is. How will new employees feel like members of the community if they don’t get the tuition benefit? The middle class loses again.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 1:59 am

      President Nugent believes that the tuition benefit is an “extremely rich benefit” and makes the point that it’s been used 10 times in the past decade. This is extremely revelatory of President Nugent’s attitude toward the preservation of the middle class and its ability to make a secure livelihood. Sadly, it’s not surprising.

      • Also anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 3:54 pm

        Exactly. Not making use of a benefit is not the same thing as not having it. I have term life insurance I’m certainly hoping I won’t use. Stock options don’t always get exercised, but people still seem to like having them in their employment contracts.

        Just because an eligible employee’s kid decided to go to a non-GLCA school doesn’t mean the family derived no benefit from having the option.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 14, 2012 10:47 am

        Stop being ridiculous. Say you buy an espresso machine for your office that costs $400,000 a year. If only ten people have used that machine in a decade, IT MAKES SENSE TO GET RID OF IT. And to the person below me–what sort of logic is that? There is no penumbratic benefit simply having the opportunity for something like reduced tuition. If you were offered a scholarship at a college, needing to only pay 20k a year to go there, and instead chose to go to a different school where you needed to pay 25k without a scholarship, not choosing to use that scholarship has not benefitted you. It is very hard to see gain from inaction.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 14, 2012 11:57 am

        Umm…There is no cost associated with the tuition benefit when it is not used. It could be more clearly described as a discount. A discount that the GLCA schools have agreed to make transferrable among themselves, offering more options to the children of their employees.

        And as President Nugent has said herself, the proposal to contract with Sodexo is “not because our workers and managers are anything less than excellent.”

        So, it’s unclear who or what is the very expensive and unused coffee maker in your analogy.

  3. Ben permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:17 pm

    Well, the defense of outsourcing in general was strong, even to a large corporation. Sodexo in particular… not so much. I mean “well they counter-sued” (would only mean something if they won) and “it’s gotten a lot better!” really aren’t good defenses. Nor does the “it was only a part of the corporation that did the bad things” argument, which doesn’t speak very well for corporate culture or supervision if something that results in a class-action suit got past those filters.

    Beyond the company in question, new hires not receiving the GLCA benefit is probably the big thing that doesn’t sit well with me. I get the reasoning it just feels messed up.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 12, 2012 11:22 pm

      Whatever the strengths of the argument for outsourcing, let us not forget that this arrangement with Sodexo was first announced to the college community as a union-busting ploy. That is a very poor beginning for a policy that was supposedly conceived, albeit in secrecy, to help the college, and it does not bode well for employees–however they are to be defined in the future.

  4. anon permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:21 pm

    Yes, and she didn’t even address Sodexo defrauding the state of New York SUNY system which was settlled in 2010. That is two years ago, folks! Sodexo had to pay out $20 million.

  5. anon permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:22 pm

    Kenyon really is Hogwarts! Nugent is Delores Umbridge!!

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 11:36 pm

      Dumbledore, come baaaack!

      • ANONYMOUS permalink
        June 14, 2012 1:02 pm

        You mean ROB ODEN!!!!!!!

      • Anonymo permalink
        June 14, 2012 7:01 pm

        Loved rob oden and he recently retired from Carleton

  6. Anonymous permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:23 pm

    Yes, we own cellphones and computers and athletic shoes. But we have some CONTROL over labor conditions at Kenyon. Think globally, act locally. Charity–love–begins at home.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 12, 2012 10:35 pm

      And Apple CEO, Tim Cook, jumped on the labor issues asap. He didn’t try to explain it away. So glad the SUNY lawsuit was brought up in comment section. Keep a list of questions and email them to Kathryn Brechler Lake , who will communicate them to the trustees.

    • Everyone Chill Out permalink
      June 14, 2012 11:01 am

      Alright guys. You all need to calm down.

      If outsourcing a small portion of the Kenyon maintenance staff will:

      a) save money
      b) not result in a loss of wages, jobs, or pertinent benefits
      c) increase efficiency of the maintenance staff
      d) allow for greater expansion into new technology that the current staff has not prepared for
      e) SAVE MONEY

      Then there is absolutely no good reason, in a recession, not to do it. As Nugent said, there was a ~million dollar increase in financial aid needs this year, and they needed to find the money to pay it. As a student on financial aid, who, without it, would not be able to attend Kenyon, I am immensely glad for this move. Why? It’s not because I’m a cold, heartless, union-hating, East-Coast upper-middle-class, Ohio hating bastard. It’s because, if I am to trust Georgia Nugent here (and, to some extent, I do), the only noticeable change in the move to Sodexo is the loss of GLCA benefits and other possible changes in upcoming contract negotiations. Just above 30 employees are being moved to Sodexo. They are not losing their jobs. They are not seeing cuts in wages–they’re actually seeing the same wages, with competitive health plans (and more variety in coverage, apparently). They may lose the GLCA benefit, but, as Nugent said, only ten eligible employees have used it in the last decade.

      The economy is not perfect, and we need to stop living in some sort of fantasy world. We need to get of the Hill. If a move will save money and not result in employees losing wages, any sensible business person should do it. I understand Kenyon is all about community–that’s why I almost wish I wasn’t going abroad. But if moving thirty people to a new company will help me be able to be part of the community, I am okay with this. They are still Kenyon employees, because we will see them every day. Are we really so closed-minded to believe that just because someone technically works for Sodexo (yet still wears a Kenyon uniform) we would not include them in our community? That we wouldn’t welcome them back for the Fall with open arms, just as we do the workers at AVI (another corporation)?

      I get the anti-corpocracy rhetoric. Some corporations are terrible. It’s possible Sodexo has done bad things in the past. But, like anyone who has done something reprehensible, there is a time to be angry, and a time to let them prove that they have changed. I don’t like multi-national corporations any more than the next person, but I like Kenyon a whole lot more than anything else.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 14, 2012 1:13 pm

        A couple things:

        While only 30 or so maintenance staff would transition to Sodexo employment now, the only reason the other 70 aren’t is because their current union contract extends to 2014. While President Nugent says “what might happen in contract negotiation two years from now can only be speculation,” it should be noted that the supervisors of these members of the staff would be transitioned now as they are not members of the union. And if savings of $500,000 are used as justification now, Sodexo, once on campus, will surely work quickly to justify access to the entire budget of the maintenance department. In fact, as President Nugent noted, Sodexo initially offered one million dollars in savings.

        As regards community, one quick, and very real, example follows. A current 34-year member of the maintenance staff would be recognized at the annual Kenyon employee luncheon for 35 years of service early next summer. That won’t happen now. He won’t even be invited. These things matter. With a little more time on the hill you’d see the clear distinction between Kenyon employees and AVI employees.

        And, the $500,000. All it takes is a quick look at the activity around campus to see that half a million dollars in annual savings wouldn’t be that hard to find. As others have noted, $500,000 seems even more insignificant when compared to the salaries of President Nugent and other members of the senior staff. The maintenance staff hardly seems the first place to look for cuts, just the most expedient.

        Financial aid has been tossed into this discussion, as well, and not lightly. This curiously unanticipated one million dollars in aid is apparently not to be worried about. Nugent writes: “This is not the first time we have faced such a deficit, and we will find a way to cope.” This surely seems to arise from a lack in management and preparedness.

        And at the protest on middle path yesterday, you would have seen the real emotional toll on a member of the maintenance staff who is facing the torture of withdrawing his daughter, a rising junior, I believe, at a GLCA school. Members of the maintenance staff can no more afford to pay the full price of a Kenyon level education than members of this faculty.

        We’re all in this boat together. The question is who’s steering and in what direction.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 16, 2012 9:02 am

        Thanks for your comment nugent

  7. Anonymous permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:36 pm

    Kathryn Brechler Lake email: lakek@kenyon.edu

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 12, 2012 10:55 pm

      If possible, I would direct questions and concerns for trustees directly to all members of the board. This decision was not made by the full board of trustees; just Nugent, Kohlman, and a small number of trustees. In fact, some trustees were not aware of this decision until their phones started ringing.

      Kathy Lake’s job title is Assistant to the President.

      Thrill staff: correct me if I’m wrong on this.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 12, 2012 11:00 pm

        I agree, but when I asked for their contact info the college told me they didn’t give it out. I wondered when the decision was made, as I didn’t see it discussed in the trustee report from April.

      • David McCabe permalink*
        June 12, 2012 11:07 pm

        Nugent told us that the decision was cleared with the Chair of the Board (Barry Schwartz), the Vice Chair (Joseph Lipscomb), the Executive Committee of the Board, and the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board (which is chaired by architecture scholar/critic Paul Goldberger).

      • Bill Murray permalink
        June 12, 2012 11:08 pm

        If you check who was sent the original allstu from our president, you’ll see the following cc’d on the email: “allemp,” “allstu,” “senior.staff,” and–one I’d been hitherto unfamiliar with–”bot.”

  8. Anonymous permalink
    June 12, 2012 10:37 pm

    You can’t have it both ways. If the tuition remission program has only been used 10 times in the last decade by employees in the maintenance division, is it really such an extremely rich benefit? How often do members of the faculty and other support staff use the program? I see some serious cost savings there!

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 12, 2012 11:03 pm

      I don’t believe there is a cost to the college, unless someone uses it the GLCA program. The remission at one time was 100%, but now it looks like the beneficiary pays 15% of the tuition cost. This could still be prohibitive to a family that doesn’t make a lot of money. But it does offer a possibility.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 10:22 am

        And that possibility allowed me to go to college. It was the very reason my mom decided to work at Kenyon in the first place -on third shift, I might add, which was not an easy decision. Working nights can be very hard not only on an individual but also hard on a family as a whole. With that said, my mom still chose to do this because she realized how important getting the best possible education was for my future. So I speak from experience when I say that the GLCA program is a very important benefit.

      • Anonymo permalink
        June 14, 2012 7:06 pm

        And it offered me the possibility as my dad was a college prof at a different glca college. I am shocked that the college payroll is so top heavy. It is a tiny school not a major university.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 12, 2012 11:17 pm

      That’s not the point. The point is the availability – equal opportunity for all of the workers. If tuition remission is only being offered to those who are at Kenyon now, what will happen when new workers join? This will lead to a division within the work force in addition to creating a divide between workers and the rest of the community.

  9. Bill Murray permalink
    June 12, 2012 11:17 pm

    Just out of curiosity, do the new buildings which require special skills in order to maintain include the Gund Gallery? Because, that building is not part of the college but its own separate entity.

    • anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 12:45 am

      Dividing Kenyon by employee rank, ringing up Trustees who were never informed, alumni signing petitions, faculty expressing concerns, oh who cares! What do they know? I’m in charge here, get over it! Her condescension knows no boundaries.

  10. Concerned Student #2 permalink
    June 12, 2012 11:57 pm

    $500,000 is the tuition of appx. ten students. Rather than poll the financially secure student, ask somebody who relies on financial aid if they support this decision or maybe the parents of said student.

    Kenyon incurs costs. Do we prioritize the costs of financial aid over the full employment of Kenyon maintenance workers? It’s a difficult question to answer.

    As for Sodexo I would point people to a recent report issued by the University of Washington Sodexo Due Diligence Working Group: http://dailyuw.com/news/2011/nov/01/breaking-down-sodexo-allegations/

    • Bill Murray permalink
      June 14, 2012 8:28 pm

      Let us poll the students on financial aid, then, and do so merrily. The results will not surprise anyone who has even a dim idea of how the college works because all of this money comes from different funds and are unrelated to each other!

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 15, 2012 10:29 am

      Of course we prioritize the cost of students. Is that even a question? If it meant I would continue to receive financial aid, I would be fine with the outsourcing all campus work. I don’t care what they say, I will still consider them part of my “community”. Students come first–it’s a college, not an office. There is a responsibility to offer education in a way economically feasible.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 15, 2012 10:39 am

        And we apparently prioritize the hugely expensive and occasionally dysfunctional design ideas of one alum over padding the financial aid budget and the financial security of our workforce.

  11. realist permalink
    June 13, 2012 12:20 am

    First of all, everyone should take a step back and realize that there is are negative results that stem from both possible options. As detailed in President Nugent’s e-mail sent to students today, Kenyon is under fairly significant financial stress. This can be clearly seen by comparing Kenyon’s endowment to other Institutions of the same caliber and realizing that ours is much lower than most other top tier liberal arts institutions. President Nugent states in her email that need based financial aid for the incoming class is $1 million more than expected. As harsh as it may sound, Kenyon’s main goal is to provide an education to young adults, not to provide extensive benefits to unionized workers. Money is like any other resource in that there is a finite sum of it, thus dictating tough decisions regarding its’ allocation. Sometimes these decisions do not have a pretty outcome, but we need to remember that there would also be a negative result associated with refusing the cheaper Sodexo service.

    This issue also seems to have been hijacked as a great chance for the rich (and/or extremely fortunate) Kenyon students to pat themselves on the back (Yay! I did a good deed today, I signed a petition against evil corporations!!!!). Protesting Sodexo may be the “in” thing to be cool and feel good about yourselves, but I routinely see fellow Kenyon students ignore and look down their noses at our college staff. Treating college staff fairly wasn’t much of a priority/ in vogue when they weren’t in the spotlight, but now that the evil corporations are involved we all of a sudden see these workers as our brothers. Get off your high horses.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 12:32 am

      How very correct you are. As it seems that you are viewing this as a student, it seems that the Kenyon education is indeed a good one – well, at least for one of you.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 12:47 am

      Kenyon has operated with a small endowment and unionized employees for decades. In fact, a little research will show that the college’s endowment has grown substantially in recent years through quite successful fundraising campaigns. Ending last fall with a gala event on campus, We Are Kenyon exceeded it’s fundraising goal by more than $10,000,000. With just that excess the college could close any financial aid gaps and cover the potential savings from outsourcing to Sodexo for years, perhaps even while a new capital campaign begins. This leads to my fundamental problem with the decision: it’s a choice, not a necessity. A choice made for what reason?

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 12:55 pm

        You have incorrectly assumed the money raised from the campaign is in hand. Most of it is in pledges and bequests which may not be realized for decades. The majority of what is in hand went to capital improvements and endowment for financial aid. There’s no money just lying around.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 1:52 pm

        Cash donations in hand or not, the point remains that Kenyon has resources that this administration chooses to deploy as it sees fit. And when phrases like ‘we are Kenyon’, ‘keeping Kenyon Kenyon’ and ‘Kenyon community’ are thrown about to no end, you might see why donors are shocked when such a calamitous decision is made only to be justified with fabricated financial crises after the fact. Who knew that the college was so desperate for an extra $500K this year — nobody asked me for another buck to avoid this mess. And if the college has genuinely been surprised to recently find a $1M hole in need based financial aid, somebody should be held accountable. This global financial crisis didn’t start last week and budget forecasting at Kenyon should prevent such surprises.

    • Concerned Student #2 permalink
      June 13, 2012 1:25 am

      How right you are.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 10:31 pm

        Yes indeed. And they are not even keeping Kenyon Kenyon, because the Gund Gallery, which we all thought was the new Kenyon art building, was “surprise” not really. I wonder, in Georgia’s quest to bring faculty salaries aligned with other “comparable” institutions, if she also made sure her salary was too. Kenyon is a small school and really doesn’t need to pay someone that much to run it.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 15, 2012 10:24 am

        That was the decision of the Board of Trustees, not President Nugent. It makes sense for a building that they want to attract visitors to be run by a separate board. Go to any major university’s museum–these organizations are not run by the College, just affiliated.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 15, 2012 10:53 am

        Protect The Nuge much? I think the recurring point is the decision (and the manner in which it was made), not who made it. And before they start worrying about attracting visitors, maybe they could try opening the place on admissions visit days.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 10:31 am

      And there are *rumors* (**I use that word knowingly because I can not prove it but feel like the point should be stated in case it is TRUE (maybe the Thrill can confirm?)) that the only reason aid is $1 million more than expected is because of the outsourced company they use for such projections….wouldn’t THAT be ironic if true??

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 9:57 pm

      I love you.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 14, 2012 6:58 pm

      Such a great comment!

  12. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 12:30 am

    It seems that reality has set in at the “Ivory Tower” that is Kenyon. It is sad to think that such an intelligent and well-educated group of people cannot see past their own liberal agendas and realize that a tough economy requires tough decision-making. It is heart-warming that people care. It truly is. However, how many of the staff and faculty are willing to take a 10-15% pay cut to make up for the short-fall? Few, I bet, would volunteer. How many of the students are willing to pay that much more in fees and tuition? Like it or not, Kenyon is (just like every other college/university) a business. Other institutions have had had it much worse – including laying off custodial staff. Kenyon should be grateful that they have such a forward-thinking admin.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 1:33 am

      You bring up a good point — concessions. This union was never asked to concede anything. Making their first offer, as they’ve done year after year at this time, there was no counter offer, only a decision: outsourcing. Nugent says the union walked away from the table. There was nothing to walk away from: your jobs are being outsourced. Likewise, faculty, staff, students and alumni weren’t given the chance to contribute in the face of these suddenly dire straits. The day before, there had been no talk of the need for immediate cuts.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 1:59 am

        Exactly! They don’t want unions at Kenyon. It’s not a Liberal or Conservative debate, it’s a factioning and fracturing of the Kenyon community by a handful of “important” folks who neither clean or pay for the campus day-to-day. It is a poor way of doing business, and the spin is naive blame-shifting.

  13. cannot say permalink
    June 13, 2012 2:10 am

    Not one word from Nugent here or in her first email (where is that promised email #2? is she still writing it?) about how this has been handled, not one word of acknowledgment either about the timing of her silence owing to the Cuba trip,or the timing of this decision, starting with the fait accompli decision presented at the first union negotiation meeting. No recognition for the source of the angst around this, none. Apparently if you are upset about this you are wrong and now listen to her condescending explanation of just why that is.

    Would she apologize if she ever did anything wrong? Apparently that eventuality has yet to occur as far as she is concerned. Does she not recognize just how badly this Sodexo catastrophe has harmed her administration? You would think she would be more politic just to protect herself. For whom the bells tolls…

  14. cannot say permalink
    June 13, 2012 2:32 am

    OK, message #2 arrived just now, sent at 2 a.m. She defensively quotes a few carefully chosen weak arguments and misstatements sent to her by concerned people, each having made some handy mistakes she could then disdainfully brush aside. I can think of at least ten other communications she received, from faculty, staff, and present or former students, each making cogent and important points, but for some reason she doesn’t quote any of those or answer the questions raised therein.

    This gets worse and worse and worse. Maybe we will get rid of her when Romney recognizes how valuable she would be as his perfect running mate.

  15. A student permalink
    June 13, 2012 3:56 am

    I’d like to respectfully object to the suggestion that the outrage expressed by students over this matter is “a great chance for the rich/extremely fortunate Kenyon students to pat themselves on the back.” Not to say that this is not the kind of behavior that is typical of (the majority of) Kenyon students, nor that many of the students who signed the petition haven’t demonstrated a very naive outlook on the situation. I’ve always been one to roll my eyes as the student body works itself into a tizzy over a small matter, but I can tell you that this time, a good deal of the outrage is fueled by a number of students who have developed friendships with staff members, and are now concerned about whether those staff members are being treated fairly. Of course, we can’t presume to make a judgement until we’ve been fully informed. If the reaction provokes more transparency from the administration, then we’re getting somewhere.

  16. Ken Thompson permalink
    June 13, 2012 7:33 am

    What I still don’t know
    1) what is the nature of the suddenly emergent fiscal crisis necessitating outsourcing and end to business as usual
    2) how proposed change will actually save money?
    3) what other options were considered?
    4) how the option to go with Sodexo came to the colleges consciousness?
    5) what the Adminstration anticipated in terms of reaction from the union, the gambier community students and alumnae?
    6) why the decision seems to have been made without much open discussion?
    7) what the administration thought would happen to the union, to future workers, to town/gown relations?
    8) what can be done to heal the breach?

  17. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 8:06 am

    Nugent: “one fact that is sometimes being overlooked in this discussion is that we are employing [Sodexo]; they’re not employing us.”

    I’m confident that the members of the maintenance division who will now be getting their paychecks from Sodexo feel differently about this point.

  18. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 8:22 am

    “Speaking with The Thrill, she noted that the senior staff rejected a proposal from Sodexo that would have trimmed $1 million from the annual budget.”

    Where did this extra savings come from and why shouldn’t we expect Sodexo to work towards those goals on its own, throwing the extra half a million dollars in their back pocket. Is there a more important corporate goal than profit?

    Nugent fails to mention the $20 million settlement (FOR FRAUD) with the state of New York from 2010, in her second e-mail. Instead, she dismisses “a number of these news items” as “old news.”

    She’s started tossing herself a few softballs from the concerns by students, alumni, and parents; ignoring the cogent points made by many, many others.

    She’s having trouble defending her stance, because it’s indefensible.

    This decision was made in order to break the union.

    Sodexo is a bad fit for Kenyon because of it’s embarrassing history of settled lawsuits and alleged human rights violations around the globe.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 8:42 am

      To paraphrase: And that $80 million class action suit against Sodexo for racial discrimination? Well that turned well for everybody in the end. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

      How can this be happening at Kenyon?

  19. June 13, 2012 8:28 am

    In 10 years, 10 children of 100 maintenance personnel were high achieving, smart students who were able to get into GLCA colleges — I think that’s actually a stunning statistic and shows the wealth of talent and genius among our staff’s children — talent and genius that will benefit the USA more generally if it is nurtured. Some of Kenyon’s most accomplished students have come from these blue collar workers’ children who otherwise would be hard-pressed to be able to enter the ranks of elite colleges otherwise. I think that is a significant achievement on Kenyon’s part. Tuition remission is an easy way for upward mobility. Without it, there are so many talented people who will not be able to fully use their abilities. Paul Newman thought upward mobility was so important he dedicated a large donation to that effort — a donation that has significantly changed the representation of first generation students among Kenyon’s students. The United States needs all the talent it can get. I believe that it is important for Kenyon to see how other schools retain this benefit for their blue (and pink and white) collar workers. Ten tuition remissions in a decade can’t possibly break Kenyon’s bottom line, and it provides untold benefits to our community and the wider community, and puts Kenyon’s values in action.

  20. anon permalink
    June 13, 2012 9:01 am

    Agreed Michelle. Also, even in message 2 Nugent still does not address the fraud settlement. Did Kenyon consider this?

  21. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 10:06 am

    Just read the President’s part 2 statement. She quoted two bad arguments, among thousands of intelligent and strong arguments made in recent days, and used a shady, right wing “national labor report” website to make her case (using a random, left wing blog would have been just as weak of a source). Any high school teacher would question that website’s use as a legitimate internet source on a 9th grade research paper.

    Since when does a college president decide to become a corporate spokeswoman for an entity she has never worked with? I can’t imagine wanting to stake my reputation on a company, or even an employee, I had only had a few nice meetings with, but never actually had a working partnership.

  22. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 10:41 am

    I must admit my struggle with posting on these pages anonymously. However, I feel I’m justified in fearing repercussions for my support of all members of the Kenyon community in the climate of the last few years. While fully aware of the hypocrisy, I see the true legacy of President Nugent and this time at Kenyon in the apparent deafening silence of many tenured and retired faculty and sympathetic college trustees.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 14, 2012 7:41 am

      Indeed. It’s fairly shocking how alienating our current cold-blooded, scaly and reptilian president has been. Seriously, time to move on perhaps…

  23. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 1:08 pm

    I’m curious whether this sort of response from the community and alumni was anticipated. I want to believe it was, that the people running my alma mater are intelligent enough to consider the impact of their decisions, but such anticipation would have produced a much more thoughtful presentation of the decision. Given that, I have to assume that they really didn’t consider how people would react, or they don’t care. The irony may be that the $500k in savings could be met or exceeded by the loss of donations due to this decision.

  24. Max Dugan permalink
    June 13, 2012 1:42 pm

    The intention to cut $500K is an understandable incentive for hiring Sodexo. However, it seems that if money going to the lower payed-labor part of Kenyon is to be trimmed down, there must be reciprocal action for the higher payed senior administrators. I am curious as to how much the President and her staff are payed per year, salary as well bonuses. I am posting this link with the knowledge that its information on President Nugent’s salary may be inaccurate. If it is, I would greatly appreciate a correction of its data. http://chronicle.com/article/Executive-Compensation/129979/. If Ohio is selected from the state scroll down menu, it shows that Georgia Nugent was payed a little more than $500K in 2009. President Nugent’s salary is not as absurd as other College and University Presidents, but nonetheless, it seems to me that there is room to cut her salary a bit while still ensuring the President an extremely high standard of living.
    I do not mean the above argument to be vindictive, I only posted it here because the Sodexo debate centers largely around Kenyon’s reputation as a community. It seems unfair to cut money from one part of the community (labor), and leave another part (administration) relatively untouched. I would love to see information on the salaries and bonuses paid to the Kenyon administration, transparency will surely clarify the situation.

    • Concerned Student #2 permalink
      June 13, 2012 3:57 pm

      So every time cuts are made in one sector of an institution reciprocal cuts have to be made in all other sectors in some naive quest for ‘fairness’?

      And costs are not the only reason the Sodexo decision was made. As Nugent said herself, Sodexo’s core competency (dealing with the maintenance of more complex structures) eclipses the means of Kenyon’s maintenance staff. That’s not a dig or an insult but a reality of a constantly upgrading college.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 5:41 pm

        As I heard someone say recently: “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

        Also, cost is the reason in this situation as well. Currently, Kenyon contracts out the more complex engineering-type work as needed. It just costs a little more. The KAC is probably the most complex building on campus, and I’ve heard no complaints about the functioning of it’s systems.

        And there seems to be no guarantee that it won’t still cost more. From the article above: “Sodexo MAY also be able to manage complex work orders on buildings like the Kenyon Athletic Center which the College
        has had to outsource in recent years.” (Caps added for emphasis.)

      • Max Dugan permalink
        June 13, 2012 6:08 pm

        That is a very good question. In a random institution made of unconnected individuals, fairness and reciprocity may not be very important. However, Kenyon prides itself on not being just an institution, we are also a Community. A community is made up of individuals who are connected to one another. As such it requires reciprocity and fairness to thrive because a community is measured by the well being of all its members. A large part of this discussion has centered around the desire of Kenyon to maintain that healthy community. We have the freedom to abandon fairness, and if we make that decision, so be it. But, if we do away with fairness and reciprocity, we lose the right to call ourselves a community.

        To your second point, I apologize for being unclear in my first post. I did not mean to imply the Sodexo decision was solely a financial one. I was only addressing President Nugent’s fiscal argument for the decision. I do not know enough about Sodexo and the staff to comment on their competency. They may very well be wonderful managers, but my personal experience is that outsiders rarely run a business better than the experienced employees they replace.

      • Max Dugan permalink
        June 13, 2012 6:38 pm

        My comment made June 13, 2012 at 6:08 PM is in response to “Concerned Student #2.” Not anonymous, though anonymous makes wonderful points. “there seems to be no guarantee that it won’t still cost more” has been rattling around in a less articulate way inside my head.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 14, 2012 9:32 pm

        To Concerned Student #2:

        I think the problem is that cuts (or even their suggestion) never seem to occur anywhere except the mid to lower levels of compensation. You used the term reciprocal as though this were a see-saw that rewards and punishes both segments of workers. But it doesn’t, and is in fact universally lopsided. One of the strangest things I’ve noticed in this whole debate is that questioning the salaries of senior staff is this off-limits place where no one wants to go. Meanwhile, in a very basic sense, the president, chief business officer, and consulted trustees completely botched this ordeal. They disregarded the most essential function of their post, which is public relations. Leaving aside whether or not you think it was appropriate or necessary to outsource labor, this was a massive failure of communication. The president disappeared for a week without message, the CBO is currently on vacation in the midst of this turmoil, and I haven’t seen any apologetic messages regarding that absence. It should absolutely be on the table that they lose their positions or suffer diminished salaries. Failure needs to be called failure, and we shouldn’t create an echelon of privilege free from its consequences.

      • Concerned Student #2 permalink
        June 15, 2012 1:41 pm

        Anon:

        Firstly public relations is not the most essential function of the administration’s post. It’s important, sure, but putting making sound decisions is more important than communicating those decisions to the community.

        Secondly, dropping salaries for administrators as punishment for poor communication is an arguable position to take. Would dropping Professor Nugent’s salary 50k, 60k, (who’s to say what’s ‘fair’), really put a dent into the financial strain the school is experiencing? No.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 15, 2012 9:04 pm

        At the level of president and chief business officer, making a sound decision and soundly presenting it to the community are intertwined. Kenyon is a tiny campus, with a relatively small staff, faculty, and student body. This was a decision almost without precedent, at least in terms of how labor is handled at the college. Yet in fashion of announcement, it was treated so lightly that you would think they were simply changing the brand of hand soap in the dorms. It was a failure, top to bottom. Even the folks who think contracting out is sensible (and to be sure, I am not one of them) concede that point.

        Fifty or sixty thousand dollars is, by the way, a very large dent in that suggested deficit of $500,000. More than a dent, actually. And I would also echo Robb Forman Dew’s notion that we could plug that half a million dollar gap very quickly by trimming uppermost salaries ten or fifteen percent, if only briefly. But I know many people are afraid to say this. Cries of socialism will abound. Some will say that it makes Kenyon less competitive for top-tier candidates. I would counter by saying
        that Kenyon is already on track to lose the best electricians, plumbers, and other tradesman by linking arms with Sodexo. Maybe they should be competitive on that front too. Everything at the college is important, no
        doubt. But stewardship of the land and facilities is the first thing that registers with a prospective student and their family. You won’t get that with Sodexo, and I’m beginning to think you’ll just have to find that out the hard way.

  25. Disheartened Alumni permalink
    June 13, 2012 1:44 pm

    What is so frustrating and sad is the way in which this was done. This was a bomb drop! The way in which the administration informed the community as a whole and the 30 something immediatley affected was poor to say the least. There was no specifics given which, to no surprise breed anger, anxiety and disappointment, none of which leads to a ‘smooth’ transition (no matter how good it could be, but I don’t believe it is.) In the end it is not just about benefits it is about what is says over all. Kenyon’s claim to fame is that it is a community of learners, a community of thinkers and how we all work together to provide a quality education. By removing one segment of our work force is not Kenyon nor is it a long term solution. Lets also be clear. The FA budget has been over budget for at least two years and it was not know until a month or two ago that this year was over again. The Sodexo plan has been in the works MUCH longer than a couple of months!
    It is also not just about benefits. While it would be easy to think so it’s not. It’s about trust and communication (or lack of). But if you really want to talk about benefits then you should look directly at the President. She alone cost the College at least $500,000.00 if not more!!! So in the larger picture $500,000.00 isn’t much, it is a drop in the bucket.
    What is also disheartening is that the Board and Senior Staff agreed to this! The individuals who make of these groups, I believed had the Colleges best interest at heart! They are Kenyon Alumni and obviously got to be members of the board because of their involvement and love for the College and after this I guess they don’t! Many Senior Staff members had been employees of the College a long time and thus have benefited from its unique and protective environment. I would also hope that they don’t agree in the way it was made public! I would think that with their years of experience (in all areas) they would have hoped it would have been better communicated.
    This also raises issues of trust and here at Kenyon that word still meant something. If they think that removing a segment of our family will fix long term problems ($500,000.00) they will be sadly mistaken. This is like trying to fix a leaky boat with chewing gum! The outcome of this, either way, will leave long term trust issues amongst the community that, I’m afraid will be here for many years to come.
    With out trust you don’t have the ability to lead and with out the ability to lead you have nothing to offer. The community that S. Georgia Nugent speaks to is smarter than she ever gave us credit for, we can spot a buffalo when we see one. I think she and maybe even other top administrators are the segment of OUR community that don’t have a place in the Kenyon Community anymore because “we” have lost trust in YOU!
    If this decision goes through what stops them from making the same decision about other segments of our community…

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 1:58 pm

      I’m not sure you are correct about who approved this deal. Some of the most senior faculty were a few of the first to respond right here. In my heart, I don’t believe that a single Alumni agreed or new. We, the community members of Kenyon, were sorely left out. Everything that you touched on is so very important. Do we continue with deficit administration spending? Is that what makes Kenyon Kenyon?

    • kellyk '10 permalink
      June 14, 2012 5:24 am

      CAPS are my way of italicising because I’m too lazy to figure out the tags~ My apologies.

      @ Dishartend Alumni:
      The Kenyon board of trustees aren’t all alumni. I think it’s about 50-50. http://www.kenyon.edu/x1173.xml Anyone without a ‘##? Not an alum.

      A quick scroll through the list ought to sober up our ideas about where the ‘Kenyon is a business’ mentality is coming from. Coupled with a senior staff that could care less about working well with the community unless it gets them bad press it seems only logical that we evolved to the state of things now.

      Otherwise, I agree with you.

      As one of the people rather unhappy about this debacle simply from the way it was handled, let me put forth a little of why this is. (I also don’t believe the college can be in such dire financial straights. Dire financial straights is when there’s a building freeze, and that really hasn’t been the case, now has it?)

      Let’s start with the departure of the office of the president to Eaton Centre. She said she’d be going there and coming back each day along middle path with her wheely-bag, or some other equally picturesque notion. She took a car, as far as anyone can tell. I was up rather early a lot of the time but never saw her going to Eaton centre…
      I saw her twice at non-official functions: once leaving Cromwell in the mid-evening and once at Eaton centre (see below). She never really said why she decided to remover herself from campus, but it was generally felt that she had. Perhaps she didn’t like the sound of people being happy and playful on the Pierce lawn? In any case, after that point her presence on campus was zilch except for necessary speeches. How can someone that isn’t around ever actually say what the concerns of everyone else are?

      Does/Did nugent really think that we were upset about the locks on the doors? REALLY? I was livid as hell because NO ONE ASKED FOR OUR INPUT UNTIL AFTER THE DECISION. NO ONE wanted to know when we usually return to our dorms, and what would be a good time to lock them. No one talked to us about fees for getting to our beds at night, or making a graduated “x number of get-to-your-bed-free’s” per year until it was drilled into our heads that we needed the stupid card on us at all times. No one asked us about a policy that you can get a new card free every year, because they’re flimsy as hell. Because we were children. Because they didn’t think we’d care (?). We went to the administrators offices chanting (yelling) at them and heckling them to just talk to us and let us have a say in deciding our environment. And, you know what? They came outside… and lied to us. They said they’d listen and we’d get input and that there’d be x number of doors with the keypad so we could keep on our normal routines. Didn’t happen. Turns out they didn’t have the money for putting keypads on all the doors they promised, nor did they care about our options for when the locks were to be on (all or nothing, was the general consensus in my time, why waste the money on something you’re not really using? If it’s for safety, why aren’t they locked all the time?).

      That’s how the administration handles situations (from the eye of a community member), and the type of plans we’ve seen in action — never estimated correctly for time or money and in the end resulting with cut corners (sometimes of the things that were deemed requirements for the initial plan). I feel that’s why so many are wary of this outsourcing to Sodexo.

      What’s more infuriating now? They haven’t appeared to learn from the past. I’m not a student any more, and the condescending way she addresses the whole community sickens me. Even if their bottom line is ‘We’re going to change it, why are you complaining?’ ANY decent manager or politician knows that you ask for input first and try and make it seem like the plebeians have a say. When we feel we had a say in the matter, perhaps (unlikely) some of the topics we bring up get a second look and (very unlikely) put into practice, and in general, the transition goes smoother. We have the chance to come to terms with the choice, and through SEVERAL meetings or emails or some form of communication where the status is distributed we get reminded and have it ingrained in our heads. The process itself makes the change easier to handle and ushers waves of good will. On the flip side, it should be very obvious that ‘shock-and-segue’ isn’t the proper manner to get things in this community, and after nearly a decade of not understanding this, it says loads about nugent, the board, and the upper administration. No, we don’t continue to protest openly, but pots simmer… we still talk of things of yore and how sad/bad it was how that things were handled in such a manner. Like a heard of elephants, remembering, getting more anxious until we stampede.

      Oh, and about judging her emails condescending? I asked an affiliated third party that was given the basics of the situation before I did that. He agreed and added these comments/critiques: “It’s a pretty well written apart from a few slip-ups where she seems to want to lash out at people. [...] She also concludes that the protesters’ main concern is uncertainty. She should give that line to the ACTA/SOPA proponents, they’d love to use that one, too. [...] Also note how she did not at all go back on the decision or even offer to delay it so that it could first be discussed decently.”

      She could have used a lot better arguments for outsourcing. Virtually no one complained about switching to google for email. But then, LBIS did that and had a crap ton of information about the why, the when, and the how, all a few months upfront…
      Pattern? I think so…

  26. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 3:39 pm

    Believe it or not, the workers aren’t the customers, but rather the students and parents are. If this can help cut costs and potentially allow more people from lower financial backgrounds to attend college, doesn’t that fit into the goals of Kenyon more than making sure no union worker loses their benefits? No employer owes anything to their employees other than fulfilling the terms of any mutually agreed upon contracts. If the Union got an offer from a company that would pay the $500,000 more than they make at Kenyon to do the same work, do you think they’d take it? I’m gonna guess yes. If the new contract pays workers less than market value, they can leave and work somewhere else that will offer higher wages. My guess is this won’t be the case.

    And anyway the point is moot because nobody will be losing their jobs and we have yet to see what happens to salary and benefits.

    • Concerned Student #2 permalink
      June 13, 2012 4:18 pm

      It’s a pity that this comment will likely get drowned out since it’s the most concise and logical thing I’ve read on this whole kerfuffle since Day 1.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 5:21 pm

      Do you think Kenyon has a responsibility to ensure that it’s chosen associates treat their employees around the world with the same respect that is traditional on Kenyon’s campus?

      I’m not being snarky. I’m honestly curious.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 5:36 pm

      How naive of you to assume that no positions will be eliminated. Do you honestly believe what you’re saying?

    • Max Dugan permalink
      June 13, 2012 6:29 pm

      The employees at Kenyon are wonderful people. They are only contracted to do material things like clean our bathrooms, take out our trash, or fix our broken what-nots. Despite being paid to do only those things, they are friendly and helpful. When I broke my dominant arm last semester, the cleaning staff at Kenyon was enormously helpful in carrying things, holding doors, and keeping my spirits up with conversation. They did all that good without being contracted for those jobs by Kenyon, or paid by me. We should not simplify our relationship with them to employee and employer. They do a great deal for us that their contract does not require of them. I would hope we treat them with the same giving nature that they do for us.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 11:09 pm

        It’s clear that the customers are saying they are not happy with this decision and are especially not satisfied with the way it was handled. So to me, this decision is not “best for the customer”.

      • Vernon Schubel permalink
        June 14, 2012 1:40 am

        Amen to that Max. It makes me proud of the students at Kenyon to see how much you get the simple but profound notion that everyone deserves respect.

        Vernon

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 11:58 pm

      Theoretically the employer owes nothing more to the employee. But since this is supposed to be a community, expectations are higher and the relationship means more. This isn’t Starbucks.

    • Gues permalink
      June 14, 2012 9:42 pm

      She said no one would lose their positions…. but won’t the other 70 union members lose their jobs in 2014 when their contracts are done?

    • Susan M. O. Chrysler, '85 permalink
      June 16, 2012 8:55 am

      I’d like to address a couple of your points, Anonymous. Nugent said no POSITIONS would be eliminated. There is a fine point here, current employees will not be protected. I’ve read from many of the pro-Sodexo comments that skilled tradespeople are over paid in some way, that Sodexo will save money. Yes, it was said that Sodexo “MAY” save money. Do you know that private sector jobs for skilled workers performing the task of operating and maintaining a complex like the athletic center make more than many of the current employees? Do you have any idea who currently runs that building, or how it functions? Is there an issue with that now? Because these questions are the backbone of the argument for eliminating these trades from the Kenyon payroll and forming a contract with Sodexo.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 18, 2012 5:15 pm

        Well if ‘private sector’ workers (technically Kenyon is the private sector as we are not a public college, but I’ll use your term) are making more money doing the same tasks as Kenyon’s workers, they shouldn’t have an issue finding a better paying job somewhere else, or Kenyon/Sodexo will have to raise salaries to keep people here, as nobody will take the job if there are better paying jobs out there, unless working for Kenyon gives a level of utility above that of other comparable jobs that makes working at Kenyon more desirable for whatever reason. And if the positions can be filled for less money, then the current workers are being paid above the labor market equilibrium. This is basic Economic principle.

  27. Anon permalink
    June 13, 2012 4:00 pm

    I am also concerned with President Nugent’s use of the argument that Mark Kolhman visited two colleges that use Sodexo and spoke with the employees who are supposedly employed with the company. According to President Nugent, these workers were all happy working with the company. What she failed to mention is A. Whether any of these workers were part of a Union (if not, they would have absolutely no protection against retaliation from Sodexo for a negative response). B. How many and what types of workers were “polled”. In my opinion, this is similar to going into a prison and asking the prisoners if the warden is treating them well while the warden is standing there. Of course everyone is going to say they are happy! Look at how many KENYON employees are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs and these people don’t even work for Sodexo, a company that as many have pointed out, has a poor record concerning workers rights!

  28. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 4:00 pm

    Can we all do a standing ovation (over the web) for the thrill writers? You guys work tremendously hard even in the summer to bring us this news. Thank you so much.

  29. June 13, 2012 4:36 pm

    President Nugent made $524,276 in 2010, a nearly $20k bump up from her 2009 compensation of $505,900. But it’s all belt-tightening for the maintenance staff. Shared sacrifice, don’t you know.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 11:47 pm

      That is very ironic.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 14, 2012 8:40 am

      The president’s salary is about 10x the salary of a faculty member who has been here 20 years. Just sayin.

  30. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 5:05 pm

    I wonder how the faculty feel about the growing disparity between theirs terms and conditions and that of the non teaching staff?

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 13, 2012 5:41 pm

      Many senior faculty have voiced concern. See the earlier posts by the Thrill which published them. None of them are knee jerk liberals, and they are concerned about which Kenyon moves forward here.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 10:09 pm

        How many are willing to take a pay cut in order to reduce the necessity of outsourcing maintenance? There’s only so much money to go around, and something has to be cut somewhere. At least this way, no one’s out of a job.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 14, 2012 8:43 am

      We faculty are concerned about the staff losing tuition remission benefits for their children. And we’re concerned that our president is making more than 10x us. Skilled maintenance workers make about 80% of what we make, not 10%

  31. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 5:40 pm

  32. lawyergay permalink
    June 13, 2012 6:39 pm

    The thirteen highest-paid administrators at Kenyon had a combined payroll of $2.9 million in 2010. I’d be curious to know if the board discussed cuts to this section of the budget at the same time it contemplated bringing in Sodexo. And if not, then why?

    A budgetary shortfall of $500,000 that necessitates the drastic changes to the Kenyon community President Nugent has proposed is a very serious administrative failure. Shouldn’t President Nugent and the other members of the administration bear some of the cost of this failure? A 15 percent salary cut for top administrators would go most of the way toward plugging that $500,000 hole.

  33. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 8:29 pm

    This is the cost of stealing cups from Pierce.

    • Bill Murray permalink
      June 13, 2012 11:03 pm

      FUN FACT I learned tonight: Kenyon auctioned off the supplies (plates, cups, and even OVENS) when they closed Gund and consolidated into Peirce. When Peirce opened that fall, they realized they didn’t have enough ovens. AVI staff now work at night to bake food for us to free up space in the ovens during the day. Ever wonder why the campus smells so good when you’re walking North at 3AM? Wonder no longer! Your cookie pies and treatzas are perfuming all of the Hill.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 13, 2012 11:49 pm

        Peirce workers told me that they feel the food service would work much better if Gund was still open. Even the layout of the kitchen is not effective for them, because they weren’t asked for input during planning.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 14, 2012 7:55 am

        Various deficiencies in Graham Gund’s designs cost the college tens of thousands of dollars a year, at least. The fact that there is nowhere near enough storage or prep space in the kitchen area of Gund means that approx. two full-time workers are employed to simply ride the(painfully slow) freight elevator up-and-down. His aversion to normal-sized trashcans in bathrooms and elsewhere is a huge pain in the ass.

  34. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2012 10:18 pm

    How dare Nugent compare cutting down trees and changing locks on doors to all these families livelihood!!! That just shows how heartless she is. She does not have to worry about supporting her family or if she is going to have insurance…..It just sickens me!

  35. Anonymous permalink
    June 14, 2012 8:02 am

    But seriously, it is definitely worth asking if she can still effectively lead this institution, if she has the trust and confidence of the faculty, staff, alumni and parents. The decision per se is not the issue here. It may very well be that the Sodexo decision ultimately is the correct one (I mostly agree with Fred Baumann & Paul Gebhardt here). The issue is how this was all carried out. She’s created a situation, through unbelievable incompetency and lack of foresight, in which the college is in a much more perilous situation than any Sodexo savings or extended union negotiations could have caused. What happens now if the unions decide to picket when school opens in August? How many of the (mostly outraged) faculty members would cross their lines? Ms. Nugent has never been loved in Gambier — she may well have made herself now generally despised. She’s never on campus, isn’t charming to students or employees, doesn’t teach. Her one greatest asset has always been her ability to fundraise. How receptive are the alumni going to be to her now? Damn good question. As a recent alum I have to say — I shudder to think about this woman trying to schmooze with me.

    • June 14, 2012 12:28 pm

      In “Alma Mater,” Kluge quotes someone–maybe a Trustee–as saying that the Board can intervene to overrule a president exactly once, after which you have a dead president. I think it’s the same thing if a president overrules herself under pressure.

      Nugent may already be at the point where she can’t back out of this without looking fatally weak. That’s too bad, because she’s not exactly bluffing–she actually gets to make this decision, and in fact may already have made it in ways that go beyond merely asserting that it is her plan.

      Obviously, in her statements, she has to say how wonderful it is that everyone is giving her crap about this. (We could be calling for segregated water fountains and a college president would still have to say that.) But notice that she gives no indication that the matter is open for debate. None whatsoever–not even token “we value your input” boilerplate. All she says is that our hearts are in the right place, and that if only our heads were too (instead of up our asses) we’d see that this is the correct decision.

      To me, that looks like a line in the sand, which may make for a pretty one-sided “discussion” next week.

  36. Bill Murray permalink
    June 14, 2012 3:57 pm

    I’ve figured it out: Kenyon must be making this deal because they hope to sue Sodexo a few years down the road and make $20 Million dollars. Then tuition will be free for everyone!

    • Anonymo permalink
      June 14, 2012 7:14 pm

      Then we will all be sipping sherry in Cromwell cottage having a good laugh about all of this

  37. Bill Murray permalink
    June 14, 2012 9:44 pm

    Despite the fact the primary concern seems to be what is best for business and this is the assumed ideology in America today, it seems businesses don’t seem to know what is best for them (Case in point, JP Morgan or Bank of America or any of the others we keep having to bail out). Perhaps WE should help Sodexo out and warn them of the community they are about to wade into which might not be best for them. Namely, that we are a community whose ideals of inclusion, engagement, and activism are just too backwards for profit-driven corpocracy to thrive as it could in better environments (Like Wisconsin, under Scotty Walker, or Iraq, where money seems to grow on trees for private corporations looking for ways to get their sweetheart deals). Should we contact them directly and let them know that we are simply not ready for their rigid “benefit” packages? that we as a people are too attached to our GLCA benefits? That despite the enthusiasm of a few at the top, the rest of us are still too stubbornly invested in the county we have (from wherever we are from or wherever we may go) decided to call home? That we don’t want to fix what isn’t broken?

    Well, good news, corporate guardians, we can now alert Sodexo that they have been misled into thinking that they have reached the land of milk and honey! Beware false prophets, Sodexo, for they speak out of both sides of their mouths.

    With the magic of the world wide web: http://www.sodexousa.com/usen/contact.asp

    (this idea borrowed from OccupyGambier)

    Keep up the good fight, everyone.

  38. Anonymous permalink
    June 14, 2012 11:10 pm

    In may be of interest for community members to know that Sodexo has worked at Denison for about 40 years. I have spoken with the Denison president, who indicated to me that Sodexo employees on that campus are very satisfied with their employer–so much so that a recent unionization effort among those workers gained no traction with them.
    President Nugent

    Interesting. The non-unionized, unprotected employees expressed only their extreme satisfaction of their Sodexo overlords. Although I don’t think that this decision is this monstrous evil that it is being made out to be, I’m tired of all these hearsay justifications. I feel like a gifted academic like the Nuge could do a little better.

    Anyway, she still hasn’t understood (expressed?) the real issue that most people have with this, which was the way this was carried out. I think a mea culpa would be appreciated. Is anyone else willing to put a toe in the water to see how these workers are actually going to be treated and compensated before we blast this to Hell?

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 14, 2012 11:35 pm

      Yeah, why is she having so much trouble with this?

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 15, 2012 12:25 am

        Because she knows she has been caught with her hand in the cookie jar!

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 15, 2012 5:32 am

        It’s worth keeping in mind that President Nugent isn’t the be-all, end-all authority with regards to Kenyon’s business matters. There is almost certainly a mandate (or at least a strong directive) from the Board of Trustees involved here, and (unless I am much mistaken) they’re the ones who have ultimate say with regards to pretty much everything that happens at Kenyon, from promotion decisions to budget decisions to building decisions.

        It has become very, very easy to pin everything that’s happening on President Nugent, because people on campus do see her (even if not as much as some might like–which is another issue altogether, given that previous presidents who were more visible in Gambier also weren’t necessarily doing the degree of fund-raising that she has done in her tenure here–and their more frequent presence in Gambier then might have contributed to our having such a small endowment now). But President Nugent is *not* Kenyon’s overlord, able to make massive financial and personnel changes at a moment’s whim, and only a very inexperienced and career-suicidal president would allow herself to be governed publicly by whatever her personal feelings and sentiments are on the questions being raised here. President Nugent, too, works for someone (and if you don’t believe me on this, look up what’s just happened at the University of Virginia).

        There are also a lot of complicated legal issues involved in everything that everyone has been talking about on all of these forums: because of the number of employees, potential employers / contracts, and unions / union members involved, she can’t just talk off the cuff about some of the things people have been demanding of her.

        People attending the forum this morning might pay close attention to the ways that the president and the chair of the board of trustees interact over these various issues. I would be curious to know where the agency and impetus for these decisions came from, and where agency and impetus now rest (e.g., with the president and/or with *her* superiors/employers). I doubt that explicit information about whose idea this all was (and why it’s increasingly feeling as though no one’s going to budge, or even admit that budging might be desirable) is going to be forthcoming. But close observation, incisive questioning, and careful listening might at least offer some insights.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 15, 2012 7:19 am

        This is quickly becoming an issue of personal moral character. She is a person of free will. She can resign in protest. In fact, it may soon be the only way to salvage her reputation and career beyond the sphere of Kenyon.

  39. Susan M.O. Chrysler permalink
    June 15, 2012 6:10 am

    I tweeted my question (@dodgegrrl) I asked for Barry Schwartz ’70, chair of the Board of Trustees, and S. Georgia Nugent, President of Kenyon College to resign. Let us move forward, address our fiscal issues, and heal our community today, please.

  40. Anonymous permalink
    June 15, 2012 8:20 am

    To the president,Kohlman and the four other people supporting sodexo. If this company is as great as you say why don’t you work for them (preferably somewhere else) And leave the working class alone. This would save the college over a million dollars a year. Doubling the savings you come up with.

  41. Anonymous permalink
    June 15, 2012 8:41 am

    As a minority my son,daughter will not attend a college with a sign on the front door ” no settlements for lawsuits against racism since 2005.” ridiculous!

  42. Anonymous permalink
    June 15, 2012 5:05 pm

    Supervisors not

  43. Anonymous permalink
    June 15, 2012 5:17 pm

    Supervisors, not the union workers will retain the TRE benifit. Also look at Sodexo payscale for housekeeping nationwide is $8-16/hour. Last time I checked Ohio, it is not an area that gets top scale. Looks like a 50% reduction in what a Total Compensation Package will be. Doesn’t Georgia Nugent get a salary equal to the proposed savings and a free residence with maid service as part of her package? The only way my daughter can afford to go to college is throught the TRE which will be taken away. If work management is the problem, than you can buy a work management system with training and would not need to hire Sodexo. By the way, is their not travel restriction for US Citizens to CUBA? WTFO?

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 15, 2012 8:08 pm

      The Cuba question, anyway, is an easy one. Yes, there are still travel restrictions to Cuba, in the sense that American citizens can’t just get on planes and fly to Havana. But there are now “people-to-people” licenses that make it possible for American citizens to travel legally to Cuba, as long as they’re going with licensed organizations (which tend to be focused on arts, education, and culture). (See http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/travel/at-long-last-legal-trips-to-cuba.html) The president was in Cuba with a week-long Alumni Travel Program trip that was being guided by two professors from the Modern Languages and Literatures department.

  44. lawyergay permalink
    June 15, 2012 7:15 pm

    This is the full and unedited text of the letter from Robb Forman Dew to S. Georgia Nugent that was sent to her and the chairman of the Board of Trustees yesterday:
    ——-

    Dear Georgia,

    I thank you for the courtesy of your reply, but I am far from satisfied with what you have to say. It strikes me as disingenuous and conveniently patriotic to attribute Kenyon’s decision to outsource to Sodexo to President Obama’s urging schools to become less expensive. If that’s what you are seeking–responsible citizenship for Kenyon–then perhaps the way to go about it would be to cut the top fifteen salaries by, say, 15 %. In 2010 the top fifteen salaries at Kenyon amounted to 2.9 million dollars, and 15 % of that that would come very close to your $500,000. goal. I don’t think the president of the United States had in mind outsourcing the poorest employee’s jobs to a company in Paris with a terrible human rights record. If you are worried about mis-information concerning the contract with Sodexo, it might be advisable to post the contract on Kenyon’s website so that anyone can find the actual facts. That is not, and never has been, illegal.

    The backbone of the appeal of Kenyon College to incoming students, to faculty, and to residents in the area has to do with much more than the fine quality of its faculty. Students looking at an undergraduate college choose a school because of its reputation, and Kenyon has enjoyed an unusual and particular reputation for years and years. Kenyon is chosen by students who care about individuality, artistic endeavor, integrity and the college’s tendency to champion the eccentric as well as the underdog. I only heard about this decision at Kenyon because of writers all over the country who got in touch with me to express their shock and despair at hearing this news. My affection for Kenyon is well known; it is the school I think of as my alma mater, and Charles and I have been investigating real estate in the area.

    I am also truly distressed to discover that the entire board did not consider and decide upon this radical step. A selective decision seems to me to be irresponsible in the extreme. Should not the entire Board of Trustees have been involved in a decision of such profound consequence, a decision that has shaken the precious and hard-won sense of community at Kenyon to its foundations? Whatever the administration’s intention may have been the entire spirit of secretive deceit is appalling to anyone who is familiar with and who loves Kenyon College. Yours is a school that has no business dealing with a company with the unsavory reputation of Sodexo, and I find it hard to believe such a decision was made thoughtfully.

    I mourn the loss of my connection to Kenyon, and I regret the necessity of having to return my honorary degree, but I see no other acceptable course of action. The step Kenyon is taking flies in the face of everything I believe, and I think the damage caused by this step will alter the Kenyon experience in ways that you have not fully imagined. I hope for all our sakes that you reconsider this step while involving the entire Board of Trustees.

    Yours,

    Robb Forman Dew

    P.S. I will be sending a press release based on this letter and my correspondence with you to local and national media outlets sometime next week.
    ——-
    I’m posting because it’s come to our–the Ransom/Forman/Dew family’s–attention that President Nugent misrepresented Robb’s view of the college’s actions to a meeting of faculty and staff. In fact, we deplore the college’s actions with regard to the staff, and we deplore President Nugent’s implication that the college’s behavior in this matter is acceptable to us.

    • Concerned Student #2 permalink
      June 15, 2012 8:18 pm

      This guy is a pretentious jerk. I don’t care what his credentials are.

      • Susan M. O. Chrysler, '85 permalink
        June 15, 2012 9:06 pm

        You do realize she is a woman, deeply connected with the scholarship of Kenyon, right?

      • lawyergay permalink
        June 15, 2012 9:18 pm

        I am almost certainly a pretentious jerk, as you say, but I’m speaking out because Georgia Nugent misrepresented my mother’s view here, and by implication my family’s. Robb Forman Dew–and the rest of the Dews–do not in any way shape or form approve of what the college is doing with regard to its maintenance staff. In fact, we deplore it. For some reason, President Nugent thought that Robb “came around” to her view on what needed to happen with the maintenance staff. If you read the letter I posted, you’ll know what I’m talking about. P.S. No need to be a dick.

  45. thedoublestandard permalink
    June 15, 2012 11:21 pm

    Lawyergay, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! :)

    Ironically, Kenyon signed onto the Worker Rights Consortium before I graduated, which means that all clothing that bears Kenyon’s logo or name should have been produced in conditions that respect workers’ rights. It’s sad that we don’t seem to have the same respect for maintenance workers, people who actually work on campus.

    I was deeply moved by this video in which a maintenance worker who is a union member said, ”These people, it isn’t about money. It never was about money. You can see they’ve got the money… They just want us off of here ’cause it’s aristocrats and servants and we’re commoners and they could give a shit about you, or me and my family.”

    Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhkPF1ntyJA&feature=share

    Thank you for making it clear that the vast majority of the Kenyon community is not in favor of President Nugent’s decision. It would be good to hear her say more than that she hears what people are saying, but actually acknowledge the wrong that has been done AND begin talking about how this can be fixed.

    Some questions President Nugent has sidestepped:

    Why engage only 3 out of 40 trustees? What are the other 37 for? Did the other 37 know that such decisions could be made without their input? What do the other 37 trustees think about this decision? When we, as alumni, vote for trustees, what expectations should we have about the role that they will play in affecting college decisions?

    Why balance the budget on the backs of Kenyon’s lowest income bracket of workers while raising salaries for the most well off, including the salaries of the administration that has overseen this alleged financial crisis that Kenyon is in?

    Why is there a general lack of transparency–in the way this was carried out; the financial picture that is supposedly driving this decision; and the actual contract with Sodexo?

    Should we expect that the administration will continue to operate so undemocratically in the future–without transparency and with what feels like disingenuous (after-the-fact and just for show, or lacking any intention to act on) regard for the wishes of the community?

    * As I mentioned, Kenyon is the #56 Affiliate School on this list from the Worker Rights Consortium:
    http://www.workersrights.org/about/as.asp

  46. June 16, 2012 7:18 am

    Robb, Thanks for taking a stand. Please do publicize what is happening here. You wrote an eloquent letter. I hope my fellow donors will begin to raise some eyebrows and take action.

  47. Anonymous permalink
    June 16, 2012 8:19 am

    Hello Here are notes that were taken from the meeting President Nugent had with Faculty (and *if* these notes are accurate I can see why the Robb family was upset and also feel like slightly more information was received here than at the public forum)

    Notes from Faculty Meeting, June 13th:
    Provided to me (SY) for unattributed posting:

    Here are notes from the meeting — two notetakers combined into one. Pass them around, no attribution please!

    Faculty Forum, June 13, summary discussion

    Jeff Bowman, Chair of the Faculty, conducted a “faculty forum” to discuss issues related to the recent employment changes announced by the College. President Nugent and Provost Samhat were present to answer questions. 77 faculty were present.

    Georgia noted that on Friday the Chair of the Board will be here to speak to the community on Friday (time TBA). Georgia reiterated some of the points made in her emails of the previous day. The current number of positions will remain constant during the Sodexo change. The contract with Sodexo will require a high labor standard.

    The reasons this decision was made include that it was seen as beneficial and certainly not harmful to people, and to get better service.

    Nayef said that the associate provosts and the chair of the faculty have effectively and authentically represented the interests of the Faculty and the College on Senior Staff.

    Georgia responded to questions received ahead of the meeting:

    “Why was nothing known of the decision ahead of time?”
    The move involves contractual arrangements. It is not good practice to put these into public debate. 8 managers and 23 union members will be transferred to Sodexo employment. It is a small number of staff. We will negotiate with the 23 union members but those discussions are private; it is illegal to make them public.

    “What happens next? Will more employees be affected?”

    There are no plans to transfer more staff to Sodexo at present. Some Kenyon employees however will be reporting to managers employed by Sodexo. Future moves are unknown.

    Faculty member: Did you anticipate the community response?

    G: Yes, I expected a response, though not the impact of social media. The petition out there is based on false information. Whenever a union contract comes up, there is controversy.

    F: Will transferred employees maintain accumulated retirement funds?

    G: Yes. There is a concrete loss in that Sodexo’s pension contribution is smaller. Kenyon will pay up front a one-time amount to make up for that. However, future employees will receive a smaller pension from Sodexo than they would have from Kenyon.The union must negotiate with Sodexo the terms of their employment.

    F: Will the GLCA tuition benefit remain for future employees?

    G: Current employees will be grandfathered. For future employees, the GLCA benefit remains to be negotiated, but it is unlikely to remain. Any current employee will retain the tuition benefit. My presumption is that tuition benefit will not hold true for future employees. I cannot discuss whether the 23 union members will retain tuition benefit.

    F: I understand the need for outsourcing, but why Sodexo, which has a long history of unfair practices? Human Rights Watch lists repeated violations.

    G: We considered Sodexo the best of three contractors available.Sodexo had the most appropriate proposal. It is up to Kenyon to ensure quality of labor practices, through our contract. Sodexo is one of many large companies that Kenyon deals with, just as faculty purchase products from Apple and other large companies with controversial labor records.

    F: We have no control over Apple, but we can control our own campus.

    G: Kenyon can control Kenyon’s relationship with a large company. The trustees have a role and they are the ones to make these decisions.

    F: Is there a connection between Sodexo and any alumni or donors?

    G: No.

    F: Why this particular company?

    G: Sodexo offered the best services and promises in writing, overall the best offer.

    F: Aren’t we giving up the opportunity to determine who fills positions? Is there a local process by which to evaluate labor practices?

    G: Kenyon will be responsible for adjudicating the work of the company. We will have input into hiring decisions.

    F: Kenyon has had a good record of employee support in the past, but now we are giving up this responsibility to a company with no roots here. Employees are entrusting complaints about Sodexo to the College and whether the College will treat them as serious enough to break contract w/Sodexo. We’re giving up the power to make quality of life issue decisions to an Multinational Corporation.

    G: That’s not the intention. We have outsourced other services, such as food (AVI).

    F: Food service was outsourced in a time of great change, expansion of Kenyon. Is today also a time of great change?

    G: Yes, there are big economic changes. The economic circumstance will remain poor for the next decade. Colleges and universities are under fire. President Obama told colleges to stop raising fees faster than inflation. Other colleges have shed employees. We are trying to adapt without losing employees.

    F: Other university systems are dropping Sodexo, with its long history of kickbacks. There are many investigations. The Attorney General of NY said every state should check into Sodexo’s practices.

    G: All companies have those kind of investigations. Colleges, too, are under investigation for collusion and xxx said that every college’s financial aid office should be investigated.

    F: Sodexo was caught with its hand in the till.

    F: The length of the contract is 5 years. Can Sodexo move the employed managers to somewhere else? Ultimately, Sodexo has the right to hire/fire/move people, correct?

    G: Yes, but Kenyon will be in the process for any decision to move or terminate an employee. Kenyon can tell Sodexo to remove a failed employee.

    Sodexo will provide training and desirable mobility for employees.

    F: Is it true that some trustees were not informed of the decision? Some of them were as surprised as we were.

    G: The decision was made by the chair of the board, with a small group, not the whole board. For legal reasons, the group had to be small, because of dealing with the union. It was not the full Board. It was the Chair, the Chair of the Building and Grounds committe, and the Vice-chair of the Board. We wanted it to be a small conversation because in dealing with the union it’s better to have a smaller group of people to discuss. There are 40 trustees.

    F: Why was no local company hired instead of Sodexo? No locally trainable/hireable people that could be trained up to operate the gee whiz equipment?

    G: Kenyon could hire new managers, but the large scale of Sodexo makes it more economical.It’s not impossible to hire and to buy the 200-300K equipment. But we’d have to do it continually. We don’t have some of these job categories, but we don’t want to add more people to the payroll.

    F: When new buildings are built, why not raise money for maintenance?

    G: We try to raise endowment for maintenance, but it is never successful. Alumni won’t donate for it. A maintenance endowment costs 20 times the annual expense.

    F: What is the effect of the Sodexo decision on prospective and alumni giving? The cost of reputational harm? Applications going down? Alumni giving less?

    G: A large number of colleges already have Sodexo. The decision is similar to ones many alumni have had to make in their own lives. Donors such as Robb Forman Dew had their information wrong. Once they get the right information, this should change. The sizable donors are very supportive of this decision and they understand this business decision.

    F: We’ve been talking past each other and we usually do. It is very difficult to save money, and you have done a good job of avoiding losing people. This is a premodern place. The fact that I work here and other strange and weird people succeed here is part of the premodern aspect of Kenyon. The fact that a controversial speaker can be shouted down at Harvard but listened to respectfully is part of who we are. We care. And this attitude starts at the top. If that changes, it is lost. We expect Kenyon to be a “premodern” community in which the president takes care of us [I didn't hear this faculty say that]. But now, this decision feels like a tipping point. This is about the last decade. Some people who will remain nameless have used up the quota (of xxxx?) and when that goes, when it’s the bottom line, then we will go all the way down.The fact that other colleges like Sodexo means nothing to us. Who we are and why we’re so good, is our values, and it’s our market niche. If we are callous and market-driven, then it’s real trouble. Yes, Kenyon will survive, but what will it be if it survives like that. This issue will not go away. Sodexo is an inviting target. The students will come back and rally. How do you weigh the bottom line against fuzzy traditionalists issues? Attention must be paid to this. You can’t just say it will be all right, even if other upsets in the past have blown over. The alumni giving went down significantly in the 1970s because of a controversy in the hiring of a PSCI faculty that poisoned the well.

    Economic necessity will make us callous. Getting rid of Sodexo control will be hard.

    (Ovation)

    G: Kenyon cannot be “premodern.” Each change feels like a tipping point. We need to have values but we can’t ignore the world around us. Every event has been a tipping point. There needs to be a certain amount of trust. I haven’t sold people down the river before. I tried to make conditions better. There wasn’t a staff rep. There wasn’t child care. Is there any credibility, any trust? I am at the mercy. And my track record.

    F: Where are the savings from?
    G: I can’t say. We need to talk to Mark Kohlman.

    Dennis Paynor (Sp?), Union Rep: Our experience with Sodexo has not been good. We have had to deal with Sodexo with labor disputes. One time we were told all the benefits were to be kept and when we arrived, they were gone. They make their profit through the reduction of folks. Joe Nelson, however much I had disagreements with him, could work with us. He had what it took. It’s gone.

    F: What about other colleges? Other colleges are laying off tenured faculty.

    G: All are facing these issues together. The financial situation is not great. I didn’t come prepared to discuss this with the financial details. 75% of our expenses come from tuition.Obama told us we can’t raise tuition. Endowment remains small. This year, in Admissions, we did not make our target number. We have to offer much more financial aid. 1 million short in financial aid [complete figure is 700,000]

    Nayef Samhat: I asked RAAS last year to recommend savings. They visited every department.The academic division is the largest. Savings were suggested to reduce Junior leave, and cut department budgets.

    F: $500,000 savings is a large number. What about our faculty salary raises? That makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s a bad precedent about tone. It’s like the Board is trying to buy my silence.

    G: The board feels strongly that faculty salaries have fallen behind and need to keep up with the GLCA salaries. You can tell the Chair on Friday but they won’t be receptive to this.

    F: Secretary wages are so low, they are not survivable. It’s not equitable.

    F: A historical view of faculty salaries shows that they need to rise; but the timing of the recent rise is extremely unfortunate.

    F: Which employees do not receive GLCA tuition benefit?

    G: AVI staff do not.

    F: The Sodexo decision, with decrease of some benefits, represents part of a national trend over the past ten years in which the range of difference among poor and rich is increasing. Some people are getting raises and new benefits whereas others are losing. A major change was the loss of Kenyon health care for retirees. While many will be able to use Emerita funds to obtain adequate coverage, some Kenyon employees cannot afford to retire (because their families cannot get affordable health care outside Kenyon). This is one small example of how the gradual decline of benefits will hurt some people while others do better. 25 years ago only faculty had tuition remission. I felt embarrassed. There were two different classes of peple. It felt strange. It was a legal issue – the benefit was going to be taxed to it was expanded to everyone. It’s not just that these are hard times, but that it is dividing and increasing the inequality. It is not equally hard. Thigns are getting lost differentially. This is bad for society. It is a community issue.

    G: I urge you to come to speak to Barry Short on Friday.

    F: The GLCA tuition benefit for staff is very important to the community, beyond the small number of people who use it. The children who graduate from Kenyon or other GLCA schools have profound significance for the community.

    F: Losing community members is a bad thing. The community will feel that employees transferred to a big company will be lost from our Kenyon community.

    G: The employees will still be part of our community.

    F: But they will not feel that way. It means a big deal to local people to be actually employed by Kenyon.

    F: With regards to town-gown, this will cost us really big.
    G: Maintenance is a long term issue.

    F: As a first-generation college graduate, I feel sympathy with the union people. My mother is a maid. My dad was in a union. The union is the only way I got ahead, it helped me get ahead.I worry about the GLCA benefits for future hires. At the rally, I heard how people feel. I feel very sad. I think it’s also a problem about the suddeness of the decision. Out at the rally there was a lot of bad feeling. People are angry and sad.

    G: I agree.

    F: Our cost cutting should not be taken out on the backs of our poorest members. Let’s think about the administration salaries. This response will not just blow over. We’re not simply anxious because of change. This is our identity, who we are, what our mission is.

    G: I can’t do much more than listen to you.

  48. June 17, 2012 10:10 am

    n/t permalink

    June 17, 2012 9:33 am

    Pres. Nugents plans go even futher to hurt the employees and community. What happens to the maintanance workers who have homes they are still paying for? With a reduction in pay and benefits how many of these will go back on the market. She dosen’t care the house she lives in on campus is free. Also the pretty Village in which Kenyon lives will suffer a lower tax base. Yes we all hate taxes but the Village stays the nice place it is with the help of the taxes from the maintanance workers. The truth is Pres. Nugent and the head Trustee’s just don’t care.

  49. Susan M. O. Chrysler, '85 permalink
    June 18, 2012 6:56 pm

    Anonymous, yes, that is true. If you have seen the faculty letter, you can see a that economics exceeds mere dollars and salaries. I have a suggestion for any one of the employees who faced elimination. Get a resume together that includes the links to the Forbes and other articles naming Kenyon as the most beautiful campus. That is your work on display. Also, forming a committee does not excuse this original decision, or the negative impact that ensued. For that reason, my request for resignations remains alive. I know the Kenyon I saw in the faculty letter, it cannot be led by the individuals who made this decision to sell the campus to Sodexo.

  50. March 30, 2014 3:51 pm

    Everyone loves it whenever people get together and share opinions.
    Great site, stick with it!

Trackbacks

  1. “Kenyon College Outsourcing Plan Sparks Outcry From Students, Faculty”
  2. Kick Out Sodexo! » United Students Against Sweatshops

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