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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Aramark cuts student managers

Published: March 16, 2012
Section: Featured, News

Since the beginning of the academic year, Aramark, Brandeis’ food service provider, began phasing out student manager and supervisor positions. After the graduation of current student managers, the positions remain unfilled and were ultimately eliminated. Student and union workers find that they now bear increased pressure.

The elimination of the student manager position has “definitely had a noticeable effect on the way that the work place works here. There’s a lot less accountability on the part of the students. A lot of students don’t show up to their shift or show up late and there’s just not any consequences,” Ben Sargent ’13, the last student manager remaining in Usdan, said.

There were approximately six student managers before the position was phased out. Sargent was promoted to student manager in the second semester of his first year. Now, he’s the only one left. He held the position before Aramark decided to stop hiring, so he has been grandfathered out. The other student managers either graduated or stopped working at Usdan. One of these former student managers is Dane Isenberg ’12.

“Student managers are really important in my opinion,” Isenberg said. “Students would come to work without any experience in what they were doing, so you needed a student manager to show them what to do. There were new hires every couple of weeks and random substitute workers.”

Student managers must know how to operate every station and are responsible for all student workers. They make sure student workers have everything they need to do their jobs. In addition, “for breaks, student managers would cover the station where the student was taking the break on,” Isenberg said.

Not only did this position provide management structure, but it also provided motivation for student workers. The pay raise is considerable, with wages rising from $8.50 to $10.50 for student managers.

“Basically it was something students strove for. It definitely kept students honest. You wanted to be better at your job to learn more skills as a food service person because you wanted the money. It’s the most simple principle of capitalism,” Sargent said.

Aaron Bennos, director of Dining Services, could not be reached by e-mail on Thursday afternoon for comment in this story.

Food service jobs are different than other jobs on campus because of this possibility for progress. “It made food service jobs for students more desirable because it’s one of the few jobs on campus where there is a real drive for advancement,” Sargent added.

At the same time that the student manager position was eliminated, the supervisor position was also terminated. The supervisor position was directly above the student manager but below upper management. With these two positions gone, there are often lapses in communication between student workers and upper management, according to Sargent.

“It’s really difficult for them to put consequences on the workers or even be aware if they are late,” Sargent said. “The upper managers are extremely busy. They’re largely overworked because there’s no one in between to help them out.”

Eliminating these two positions coincided with two of the top managers leaving the company. There has been a large overturn of managers in the past year. Eight managers left at the beginning of the year.

Among the supervisors is Alexei Alvarado. “I think it was a mistake to get rid of that position. I was a student manager for two years. I feel that having that position available motivated students to work hard and be responsible so that they could be promoted from the general service position,” said Alvarado.

Furthermore, Alvarado explained that student managers helped him as supervisor. “It was helpful for me to have reliable student managers to work with because I always had too much on my plate and could use whatever help I could get.

“In my five years working for dining services (two plus years as a supervisor and manager), it seemed to me that supervisors and managers never really had anybody supporting us,” Alvarado wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot.