BREAKING: College Suspends Negotiations with Sodexo, Will Form Advisory Panel

In a release 20 minutes ago, the College announced its intention to form an advisory panel to consider how Kenyon will handle maintenance management in the future. As a result, the College has suspended negotiations with “an outside maintenance-management vendor.” As far as we know, Kenyon is not negotiating with any maintenance-management vendors besides Sodexo.

We’ll update you as we know more.

47 responses

  1. You mean Nugent is not going to hire Obama’s soon to be amnestied illegal aliens ? They have to eat too,you know. Work cheap too. Save Kenyon, open the borders.

    • What purpose could a comment like this one possibly serve, other than to offend? It’s not making a useful political or cultural statement; it’s not clever; it’s certainly not compassionate. Hold yourself to a higher and better standard.

      • Why anonymous, I think you be wrong. Think about.Is it not the function of administrators to administrate at the lowest cost, especially in these times? And I would say my comment is most compassionate,to illegals anyway.And just about anything will offend nowadays,in Gambier & similar climes.

      • In fact, as someone committed to critical thought and careful speech, I *have* thought about your comments. I’m proud to belong to a community where many will be offended by a comment that casually reduces the humanity of other people, from “Nugent,” as you call her, to the immigrants you group together as “illegals.”

        The very announcement of this advisory panel suggests that Kenyon administrators recognize that their function goes beyond “administrat[ing] at the lowest cost”–something that we’ve already seen evidence of in the past two weeks (in the college’s rejection of one plan that would have saved $1M instead of $500K, no doubt by eliminating jobs that the college instead chose to preserve). The administration and the Board of Trustees have heard the frustration being articulated by this community and are responding to it–which doesn’t mean that the advisory panel’s decision, when its work concludes this fall, is necessarily (or even likely) going to be something that every single member of the community will agree with in all points.

        The words you choose *matter*; it’s all but impossible to make a compassionate comment that reduces a diverse population of people to dismissable units under the term “illegals.” A truly compassionate response might recognize and take a cue from the outpouring of concern, generosity, and activism in Gambier (and in Kenyon’s online communities) for the lives and families of the men and women affected by the Sodexo decision.

      • Barely comprende your profound comment Anonymous. But your comment does fit nicely with Kenyon’s new mentality,ie, ice cream at the new fat parlor(used to be a Bookstore). Alumni Bull-etin too. Have a nice day, eloquent one.Nugent too. illegals too.

      • I should clarify that there are two Anonymous posters on this thread, and that I am the first one but not this later and pithier one. I’m not sure which of us you’re addressing, Apetoid, or whether you’re addressing us as the same person. I *am* pretty sure that it doesn’t much matter: by now this thread has degenerated back into the cheap shots I was hoping to encourage us out of with my comment last night, and I’m no longer under any illusions that we’re likely to have a serious exchange here.
        Sarah Heidt

  2. Methinks the advisory panel will look at putting a compromise on the table to the union and see where it goes. They can always privatize down the road should the union either not work to lower costs or decrease inefficiencies.

  3. Wonder if the panel ever actually happens. You have to wonder if Nugent is looking for a golden parachute back to Princeton.

  4. I wonder how students on financial aid will feel if that 500k the school would have saved can no longer be allocated to the scholarship fund.

    • Agreed. I’m still personally failing to see the evils in the Sodexo contract. There should have been far more transparency on the part of the administration, and far more respect given to the maintenance staff, of course, but as far as the deal itself goes, it seems like the savings will come from Sodexo’s ability to get better and less-expensive equipment, etc., not from people losing benefits or their jobs. Saving 500k without anyone losing a job? Am I over-simplifying this? As someone who relies on very generous grants and scholarships from Kenyon to attend this school, I understand the need to redirect some finances towards financial aid for the incoming class…(Though the administration could stand to step up and take a pay cut themselves.)

      • Respectfully, I do think that you are over-simplifying this. No one ever said that that 500K would go directly to financial aid. Further, during the forum on Friday, it was revealed that significant benefits WOULD be lost, that the cost of health insurance through Sodexo was so high that only 20% of the Sodexo workforce at Wright State could afford to even HAVE insurance.

      • Yes, I’m sorry ’13, but you are over-simplifying this. And I don’t want to come across as insulting, but I think this may be a case of your being young and naive about the workplace in 2012. Entities like Sodexo do not just enter into a partnership to help a college offset its costs. Rather, they are an intermediary that steps in when such an institution is looking to do just that, but they do so with their own bottom line in mind. That 500k gap the school claims it needs to close exists separate from whatever profit margin Sodexo seeks to get out of the deal. And how else would this be done than by the erosion of wages and benefits? Haven’t we already been told that contributions to pensions under Sodexo would shrink by some five or six percent?

        These are predominately middle class jobs. Right now we are discussing the skilled trades, who will certainly lose worth under Sodexo if this contract is signed. In two years your custodial staff will come up against the same thing. If this passes now, a precedent will be set for the administration to foist a similar arrangement on them. The median wage for a Sodexo custodian is around eleven dollars an hour, compared to Kenyon’s hourly rate of almost seventeen dollars. I don’t know if you understand how much of a chasm that is. It’s absolutely the difference between whether or not you send your child to college, even forgetting the GLCA benefit for a moment.

        If Kenyon wants to abolish any sort of social contract, then it will also need to forfeit its esteem. As a host to Sodexo, it would be yet another college to join the race to the bottom. No slight boost in financial aid would counter the damage done.

    • I don’t know. How do they feel about the KAC? How do they feel about that gorgeous view from the back of Peirce? How do they feel about all that peastone they buy for Middle Path? These things all take money that could be used for scholarships. Those new condos going up behind Caples look awfully nice… and expensive. How would financial aid students have felt about putting up another Caples instead? The football team is worth a few full-ride scholarships. So is the swim team. The very existence of a Greek system adds six figures to the college’s liability insurance every year. How do students on financial aid feel about fraternities?

      Heck, when you come right down to it, a student on $30,000 worth of financial aid from Kenyon could take the $20,000 they’re paying and use it to get a great education at a hundred similar schools–and still have some money left over. How do financial aid students feel about Kenyon? That would also free up another $30,000 in aid for the students who stayed. How do financial aid students feel about each other?

      Actually, I can answer that, since I was one. We never saw it as a zero-sum game or a money grab. I never once looked at the people cleaning the bathrooms or patching up hundred-year-old plaster for the hundredth time and thought, “Damn, these people are costing me money.”

      • That’s an eloquent and well reasoned post, equally “concerned”. While your input is important it obviously doesn’t speaks for all students on financial aid.

        My point is more that the students who would be most affected by this decision would be those who chose not to come to Kenyon because they aren’t afforded an attractive financial aid package.

        This decision hinges on a question of priorities. As you mention, the KAC, Caples, etc all cost money that could go to financial aid. The administration has chosen for the maintenance staff to bare the brunt. It’s quite obvious that the school would not do away with the Greek system since many paying alumnae were former Greeks. It’s unfair absolutely, and it is this point that keeps me from supporting this decision even though I know it’s likely financially necessary.

        I guess even though I have been cautious, perhaps overly so, and very reluctant to come out and protest this measure, it has encouraged me that so many Kenyon students and community members protected the maintenance staff.

        That being said, demonization of the administration is unfair and unwarranted. The costs Kenyon incurs are real and they have to cut them somehow. The way they went about it was atrocious, no argument there, but that doesn’t solve the financial problem.

  5. It’s very convenient to play the card that says that you’re robbing the students on financial aid if you don’t support this cut. Nugent made this suggestion in her message, but it’s a red herring. The reason for the contract with Sodexo, as you will see if you continue to read her message carefully, is the need to control maintenance costs (not least of all because of the inefficient new buildings, I imagine). It’s not about financial aid, so a comment like “I wonder how students on financial aid will feel if that 500k the school would have saved can no longer be allocated to the scholarship fund” is really not relevant.

    Furthermore, we all pay a premium to attend Kenyon, whether we get aid or not (except for those on full scholarships). For many of us, belonging to an institution that treats its staff fairly is worth a good part of that premium, and we continue to have reason to question whether that would stay the case if the College partners with Sodexo.

  6. As a brief aside, I’m absolutely embarrassed to share a campus with students who nonchalantly insult a professor, ignore her reasoning and send her off knowing that her input is not welcome and that the maturity of her audience is such that she cannot engage in constructive discourse with any of those students on this forum. It’s clear that there are much greater problems with the “Kenyon community” than simply the decisions of its administration.

    • There is a certain, and very stupid way that internet comment sections sometimes work that I think Professor Heidt was unfortunately just introduced to. It’s a bad thing that happened, and I hope that Professor Heidt didn’t take it too seriously.

      As a brief aside, please, pleeeeeease tone down the pretentious rhetoric. 1) You don’t even know that someone from “Kenyon community” (I’m so tired of seeing this in quotes–We. Get. It.) just because one of them says “Ryan Baker” doesn’t mean he even posted it. Welcome to the internet 2) I AGREE with you and yet your post somehow insults me 3) Can we please all stop calling for the administration’s head(s)? We are, and I mean this in every sense, acting like a campus of Joffreys.

    • Thanks for your concern, ’14 and 14′. Once I looked up Joffreys, since I’ve so far escaped the clutches of Game of Thrones, I too laughed (but grimly).

      When Ryan Baker posted to tell me I was annoying, he didn’t know I was a professor because I was posting anonymously. But ideally, who I am wouldn’t matter in this conversation, which is I think why I was posting anonymously in the first place. I do know how internet comment sections usually work, but somehow–probably because The Thrill is connected to Kenyon, an educational institution where we work hard to teach critical thinking and clear writing and where we value trying to reason carefully–I hoped we could converse at some more thoughtful level here (which is to say, I thought we could *converse* at all, instead of shouting at each other). As someone who’s been at Kenyon for the better part of 20 years, I felt a responsibility to try and move things–even in an internet comment thread–in a better direction.

      My main point from the beginning was that everything gets lots easier and lots more self-satisfying when we reduce other people to stupid caricatures and then call them names. So I’ll reiterate my earlier suggestion: try to hold yourself to a higher standard, whatever you’re talking about and whomever you’re talking to. One of the best things my father ever taught me–from knowledge he’d built up over decades working in automotive factories–is that we should treat everyone with dignity and respect, simply because they’re human.

      Be well, everyone.


  7. It’s important to remember that this may be far from over. While it may look like the administration was shamed into suspending talks with Sodexo, what they actually succeeded in was taking the heat off. In fact, they turned the 5 PM NBC4 news story of workers in fear of losing their jobs into a 6 PM (more widely seen) story of a happy resolution. The pressure is off and they can continue toward the goal without the spotlight. As long as the trades union works without a contract they are vulnerable. And I have a strong feeling that the administrators at the table are doing everything they can to prevent an acceptable contract coming to a union vote.

    • This panel should also have representatives from Campus Safety, the Custodial Staff, the Administrative Staff, and even AVI because in a few years all of them could be outsourced to Sodexo or a similar corporation.

      Again, what is the ultimate goal here? This is the question that needs to be answered before we can even have the semblance of legitimate dialogue. Luckily, the student body and the faculty will return to Gambier in only a couple months. Still, we should start organizing now so we don’t miss a step once the school year starts.

      In the meantime, come on down to the softball field behind the KAC for Community Softball tonight! 6PM!

      • Yes, the food service is already outsourced, but once Sodexo has a foothold on campus they’ll be competing for that as well. AVI is a relatively small Ohio based company.

      • Yeah, the food service at Kenyon is already outsourced to AVI. If the panel will seriously work towards hearing all the different points of view from the community, they should definitely at least hear the experiences and comments of the AVI workers and supervisors to see how outsourcing has been managed before and how it works. The AVI is surely not perfect as we keep hearing things about it but it surely has integrated well into the community as we keep forgetting that it is not a part of Kenyon.

      • I think the outsourcing of Kenyon’s food service is a very important point to consider. It’s worked out very well (in my opinion, though I don’t know what it was like before AVI) – they do a fantastic job working on sustainability and dealing with local farmers, and put great food on Peirce’s tables. Plus, the AVI folk are very much a part of Kenyon’s community. I think you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish their status as community members from the current Kenyon-employed maintenance workers.

        Choosing Sodexo may be a misstep considering its history, but is outsourcing maintenance in an of itself a horrible idea?

      • AVI is an Ohio company and is locally based. We do seem to have a great relationship with them and them with us. HOWEVER, AVI employees can beand have been swapped around at their different clients with no thought as to where they “belong in the community”. The same would be true with Sodexo except with a larger radius of travel/displacement. A number of community fixtures in Peirce have been unceremoniously transferred to other AVI locations.

        That said, if I were AVI (Not suggest that Corporations are people, my friend), I would be terrified that one of my biggest contracts was considering jumping to another service (one which has been described as Catering’s Creepy Uncle).

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