Time for SCSU to transition to a Self-Op

in Opinion by

Good food, high quality for cost, and great management. These are things that would never be applied to Garvey Commons under Sudexo or Chartwells except on “Opposite Day.” I have an unlimited meal pass for Garvey, strictly because of convenience, and I can guarantee that I will not get it next year.

I want to make this abundantly clear: I am not blaming the student workers at Garvey Commons. They have to put up with demanding student-customers, oppressive management, and doing the best they can under a lot of pressure.

Failure begins at the top with on-site management and more often than not, it is the front-line workers who suffer. Secondly, I am not expecting a five-star, twelve-course meal. I am, however, expecting a reasonable quality of food.

Part of the reason why I chose to purchase my meal plan at Garvey Commons was because of the big hype around Chartwells. After suffering through four years of A’viands at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and hearing so many good things about Chartwells, I decided to give it one last chance. Depressingly, this turned into another disappointment.

Not all of Chartwells is bad. I do like Chik-Fil-A, Erberts N’ Gerberts, and Denny’s Den. I’ve also heard many good things about Caribou, but have never been there myself. Their catering is also very good for the price, but on the whole, I am not a fan and strongly believe that it’s time for St. Cloud State University to pursue the self-operation option.

A self-operation, or self-op, is simply the University taking over its meal services and running it, rather than contracting out to a for-profit enterprise. In the UW System, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has won dozens of awards for their high quality of food and it isn’t much more expensive than Garvey is here. My brother attends Point and he likes to send me entrée options of pork tenderloin, steak, and shrimp that are common features.

A self-op would also help the local economy. Rather than buying in bulk from certain vendors, a self-op would give the university the freedom to be innovative and contract locally with farmers, butcher shops, bakeries, and other businesses that would benefit the most. The University would not just be an intellectual center, but a job network as well in the community. In addition to exterior benefits, students could earn internship credit or pay for managing or supervising other students, creating diet plans for students, and many other potential opportunities.

I fully understand we as college students are very rarely satisfied with the food at Garvey Commons. It’s simply a fact of poor quality food and management that does not care about their student workers. This does not mean, however, that students should be seen as profit centers or simply passive, captive consumers. It’s time to “vote with our wallets” so to speak, and not buy meal plans from Chartwells until they address the low quality of their food.

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