Eastern Michigan University students were hit with a 7.8% tuition increase last year, and with another large tuition increase soon to be approved, privatization will have EMU students paying more for lower quality food.
In addition, workers will be hired at low wages with fewer benefits, creating more income inequality. Numerous current employees and students will be at risk for losing their jobs. Given that the operation of dining services currently returns a surplus to the University, and given the satisfaction students have with the services provided, there is no reason to privatize dining services at Eastern Michigan University.
There are many reasons to be concerned, however, about the cost and quality of food delivered by outside vendors. Outsourcing in the State of Michigan does not always work out, as was demonstrated when food service for inmates in state prisons was outsourced, with disastrous results. In addition, the firm likely to receive the contract is Chartwells, a subsidiary of Compass Group, a British company. Chartwells took over food service at Oakland University, and this account demonstrates how displeased the students are with Chartwells.
“Chartwells confronts food issues,” Oakland Post, March 9, 2015.
In addition, according to the Washington Post, students at a high school in Connecticut reported that Chartwells serves “food that sometimes features mold, human hair, dangerously undercooked meats, insects and portion sizes fit for a small, starving child.”
“Moldy hot dogs, human hair and other cafeteria nightmares prompt students to boycott school lunches,” Washignton Post, Nov. 5, 2014
The EMU administration has claimed that the justification for this move is due to financial struggles of Eastern Michigan University. But the university’s bond rating remains strong, and EMU has solid cash flows and real reserves. If there are any financial issues at EMU, it is clear that the priorities of the EMU administration are completely misplaced. If money is to be saved, those savings can be achieved by reducing EMU’s bloated administrative budget, and by cutting the $1,000 per student (10% of average tuition) subsidy to athletics.