Students express concerns about Sodexo changes
Brandeis students threatened to hold sit ins in response to Sodexo’s dining service. In addition to posting their concerns on the Brandeis University Senate Dining Committee’s Facebook page, students went so far as to plan a protest in response to Sodexo’s renovation of the Usdan Student Center, change in dining options and new meal plans.
Students have reacted to both the physical changes to the dining facilities as well as the remake of meal plan options by creating reactionary groups on Facebook such as the “Sodexo Fan Club,” in which students post sarcastic compliments concerning Sodexo’s services. One such post stated “I really like the diet orange juice. Looks like water, tastes like water, no calories!”
A more serious Facebook group, called “Holding Sodexo Accountable,” has since budded off of this page. This group, created by Samantha Rockey ’17 on Thursday, is designed to “help the student body get organized about voicing [it’s] dining concerns,” Rockey wrote in an email to the Justice. Some of the concerns Rockey noted in her email include a lack of variety of food options, a call for meal equivalency so that students can use their meals at the Hoot Market and other locations as well as a need for increased Sodexo communication and transparency with a student representative. Rockey wrote that she’ll “be personally working to improve that transparency.”
According to her email, Rockey submitted a list of concerns she compiled from the members of the Facebook group to the Student Union, although she did not confirm when. On the Facebook page, Rockey posted that she would send the list on Friday to the Executive Director of the Student Union, David Heaton ’17. Heaton, with whom Rockey has been in communication, agreed to share the group’s grievances with the Student Union according to this post on the Facebook page.
The very day that Rockey created the Facebook group, the Vice President of Operations James Gray sent an email to the entire Brandeis student body stating that, beginning Sept. 8, Sherman Dining Hall will be kept open until 9 p.m. while Dining Services monitors the student traffic during the extra hour “to determine if [Dining Services] should continue to offer the extended service next semester.”
The Facebook group threatened to host a sit-in by Sept. 16, but Rockey wrote that the group is currently exploring other options to hold Sodexo accountable.
Sodexo’s General Manager Shawn Monaghan said in an interview with the Justice that he has a similar plan to increase the level of communication between the Dining Services and the student body. Monaghan said that Sodexo plans to use the media to “address things while it’s happening and we don’t have to wait for a month for someone to come in with a laundry list.” Specifically, Monaghan plans to increase the use of the Dining Services website and Twitter account “to break down any of the barriers” in communication on campus.
Monaghan also mentioned that he plans to coordinate a vegan and vegetarian group in order to have a discussion about Sodexo’s offerings, and also hinted at addressing other dietary groups. “The fact is that things are different this year, but at the end of the day we’re here to enhance people’s lives, not inhibit,” Monaghan said.
—Hannah Wulkan contributed reporting.