UMN student and faculty senate resolution says Aramark needs to improve service

The resolution calls for the U’s food service provider to be held accountable for the cost and quality of its food.

David Clarey

Both student senate bodies passed a resolution critical of the University of Minnesota’s food vendor on Thursday.

The University Student Senate and University Senate passed a resolution calling for Aramark to be held accountable for business ethics concerns and a lack of dietary accommodations.

In both instances, student and faculty senators presented concerns about the company such as expensive meal plans, poor quality food and mistreatment of employees to University representatives.

The resolution — brought forward by the Student Senate Consultative Committee — calls for the University to cut incentives given to Aramark for meeting certain quality standards.

If there isn’t an adequate response from Aramark by 2018, the resolution calls for the University to not renew the contract with the vendor. The contract with Aramark ends on June 30, 2020.

“I’m very happy to see it pass unanimously,” said Trish Palermo, Student Senate chair. “I’m looking forward to Aramark’s response to the ethical concerns.”

While it’s good to see students care about quality of food services, it’s not new to hear about these types of complaints, said Interim Vice President of University Services Mike Berthelsen.

He said special dietary needs are more recent issues for the University. Quality quality concerns have been discussed for a long time, he said.

Berthelsen said there isn’t a specific timeline for the implementation of various requests.

“Our goal is to address the issues … and make sure that Aramark is meeting our expectations as a University, for both our students and our leadership team,” he said.

In an emailed statement, an Aramark spokesperson said the company is committed to address any issues with its service.

“We are proud to serve the University and are committed to working with the administration and students to collaboratively address the issues outlined in the resolution,” the statement read.

Student senators and other attendees Thursday discussed additional concerns regarding Aramark with University administrators.

CFANS student senator Shantal Pai questioned the requirement for first-year students to have a meal plan.

In response, Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Laurie Scheich said the plan is necessary because dorm kitchenettes aren’t equipped for a large number of students to rely on them.

She also noted a benefit of building a sense of community through dining halls.

Kay Akey, assistant director of University Dining Services, said at the meeting UDS plans to start having staff visit and eat at the dining halls daily to better track quality.

The University also approved the SSCC’s request for student representation on the University committee that reviews contracts and the creation of a student advisory council to look into complaints with Aramark.

Similar resolutions are being planned by the Council of Graduate Students and the Minnesota Student Association.

The University’s Twin Cities campus first signed a contract with Aramark in 1998.

A year later, the University Senate passed a similar resolution that noted a perceived decrease in “quality, service and choice” in the food provided by Aramark.

Aramark spokesperson Karen Cutler previously told the Daily that the ethical concerns are a “smear campaign” against the company.