Regents vote to extend Aramark dining contract by two years

During the extension period, UMN will explore options to either stay with Aramark or become independent.

The Board of Regents convene for their October 2019 meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Image by Nur B. Adam

The Board of Regents convene for their October 2019 meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Oct. 10.

by Samantha Hendrickson

To explore new dining options for the first time in 20 years, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents unanimously approved a two-year contract extension with controversial food contractor Aramark Thursday. 

At the board’s October meeting, the regents authorized an extension that will give administrators two years to draft a request for proposal (RFP) to either renew its contract with Aramark, find a new food contractor for the University or transition to a self-operated dining system.

The Minnesota Student Association has been advocating against Aramark for roughly the past four years, voicing concerns about the food itself and the ethics of Aramark as a company.

At its October forum meeting, MSA presented a resolution requesting that students be represented in all committees within the Future Dining Task Force, which was created to explore the two dining options. According to the resolution, students are not currently involved in the executive level committee, which speaks directly with the president and other top administrators. 

According to Mike Berthelsen, vice president for University services, coordinating the business plan for self-operation and drafting of the RFP will happen simultaneously over the extension period. 

Multiple regents expressed the importance of student voices in both processes at Thursday’s meeting. Regent Michael Hsu said he would like to see students in the voting groups, and Regent Mike Kenyanya stated he does “support the students’” ask for representation”. 

Regent Darrin Rosha stated that it is “appropriate to have a voting [student] voice” and that if it is not included, the alternative would be that anybody on the committee is “compelled to purchase a meal plan” in the interest of full representation. 

The self-operation plan and results of the RFP will be compared side-by-side and  presented before the Board of Regents for a vote at the end of the extension.