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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: Re-think Aramark corporate structure

Published: March 23, 2012
Section: Editorials

Last week The Hoot published an article about Brandeis Dining Services decreasing the number of student managers. Director of Dining Services Aaron Bennos responded to The Hoot via e-mail on Friday to explain there was no intentional decision to reduce the number of managers.

Hoot staff continued investigating the issue this week and found that there has in fact been a significant decrease in the number of student managers working in dining services. But that decline has been specifically at Usdan, a distinction the article did not explicitly state in the beginning. The article noted there was one student manager working in Usdan. Technically speaking and depending on timing of hiring, that statement was not incorrect. There is another student manager hired to perform administrative responsibilities and only last week was a second floor manager who works behind food lines hired in Usdan.

After speaking with many student and union workers, managers and supervisors, Hoot staff contacted Bennos to follow up on this story, but he did not respond to repeated requests for further comment.

Our responsibility as editors of a community newspaper is to investigate the issues that affect students, staff, faculty and administrators. The employment structure, organization and hierarchy of dining services undoubtedly has a direct effect on both student life and staff treatment. Unfortunately, it is often an issue overlooked.

Students at Brandeis often complain about the quality of food in dining halls. In fairness, however, this critique must not be directed solely at Aramark. As a food service provider, Aramark makes food for a range of institutions in America from correctional facilities to elite universities. Aramark alone cannot be held responsible for the quality of food they provide. If Brandeis purchased a different dining package and spent more money each year, food quality would improve significantly.

What Aramark can be critiqued for, and what Brandeis administrators can be held responsible for, is the corporate structure they build and promote within the university. The Hoot’s coverage of the relationships, hiring practices and communication between staff and supervisors, whether students or adults, reveals a system that is not transparent.

Dinings services should be hiring more, not fewer student managers. Senior management officials like Bennos should clearly list the goals to achieve, responsibilities to meet and development track to follow for aspiring student managers.

Providing food services for a university of more than 3,000 students is not a simple task. We do not underestimate the difficulty of managing personnel and running an efficient dining service operation. Yet we believe that each of these objectives can be met more fully if they are viewed as combined, indistinct goals. Overtime, food service will be more efficient if students are given more responsibility, control and leadership capabilities. It will take energy and resources to restructure and redefine the role of student workers but it is a crucial and long overdue change.

Brandeis administrations should recommend this dining services personnel structure review to Aramark. If they are unwilling to lead on the issue, surely we can interview with other companies to create a new contract for food service in the future. This issue is not about whether Bennos will respond to phone calls and e-mails from The Hoot or whether the quality of the food is adequate in lower usdan or Sherman.

It is about a corporate culture that needs to change, either from within Aramark or a new company. Corporations must provide an effective service and motivate their employees to succeed. Right now, Aramark is struggling to recognize this dual responsibility to the Brandeis community.