Poor communication was root of Chartwells dispute

Ben Fitch

The student protest of the Chartwells contract extension has resulted in an examination of the communication lines between the Washburn Student Government Association and the administration.

Because of this poor communication, some had misunderstood the specifics of the contract.

Initially, the contract entailed a three-year agreement to employ Chartwells as the campus food service provider, as well as five annual opportunities for renewal of that contract. The new contract included five more annual opportunities for renewal, in exchange for covering the $700,000 necessary to make renovations to the Union’s Corner Store and Food Court. Ten years is the estimated time Chartwells will need to recover its investment.

“At any point, we can cancel the contract,” said Wanda Hill, vice president of administration and treasurer.

The demonstration on April 2 was in protest of the lack of student input in the decision.

“I think it has done a lot,” said Garrett Love, who takes office as student body president Wednesday. “The big issue was communication – the ball was dropped there. It is something that can be fixed. I supported the proposal, but the process was wrong.”

Hill said she thought the poor communication happened on both the sides of WSGA and Chartwells.

“Should Matt [Beadleston, director of dining services] have been more persistent? Yes,” said Hill. “Should Whitney have let Matt know the committee had actually been formed? Yes.”

She said the point, though, was that better communication can happen in the future, and the administration will help the student government make sure the food service committee becomes a standing committee.

Hill said she thought the protest accomplished what she thought it was meant to.

“If the goal was to open lines of communication, then it was successful,” she said. “Yes, you have our attention. We will be more proactive in seeking input on our side.”

Love said he had several plans for WSGA’s improvement in the area of communication, including open forums at WSGA meetings available to all students who wish to voice opinions, concerns and questions. He said he wanted to continue the food service committee.

Also, Love said he wants to meet with Bob Storey, chairperson of the Board of Regents, a week before the board releases each agenda.

“Our number one job is to represent the students,” said Love.

Storey said students are always welcome.

“Tell us the problems,” said Storey. “I would recognize the student body president and invite them to come to meetings.”

Storey said problems expressed by students will be presented to Chartwells. At the worst, the contract could be severed. Regarding the protest, Storey said he didn’t think it was a fair representation of the student body. The number of students polled by Chartwells was more than those who attended the demonstration.

Love said he thought Chartwells was getting a bad rap.

“It’s a perception that is common in many colleges,” said Love. “We should emphasize the policies they have and fix problems that are addressed to them because of the student feedback.”