Speaking Out

More on 'Save Dining'

This letter is a follow-up to the response by John A. Fry, Executive Vice President, and Steven D. Murray, Vice President, Business Services, to the "Save Dining Services" letter printed in the 7/16/96 edition of Almanac.

First of all, I must thank Mr. Fry for pointing out the rather obvious: as a student in the College, I do not have the training nor the expertise that the Division of Business Services has in evaluating all of the factors which will go into outsourcing departments which are secondary, yet vital, to the University's mission. Indeed, as I stated quite explicitly in my letter, I expect for him to thoroughly investigate those factors. Furthermore, his characterizations of the statements that I made as "assertions", "unilateral", and "conclusions" indicates a lack of basic reading comprehension. The words I believe do not denote absolute fact, which is what assertions, conclusions, and unilateral statements, in the context which he uses them, require.

That having been said, Mr. Fry has not satisfactorily addressed the concerns that I have raised. His categorical statement that "Outsourcing does not necessarily put people out of work; it puts them to work in a new management environment where greater expertise is present" is a non sequitur. The threat to job security that outsourcing represents is tantamount in the minds of anyone whose department is being considered for such. What is foremost in their minds is "new management will not keep us". This is especially true at the full-time level, let alone management. Mr. Fry can afford to make such judgmentshis job is secure. People who have been working for Dining Services for most of their adult life do not have this security now, thanks to him.

While Dining Services remains an integral part of Penn, his statement that student input will "...continue to be an important tool in evaluating our alternatives going forward" has credibility. Yet it ignores the possibility that if Dining Services is outsourced, then student concerns will not be appropriately addressed, and he has not given students any guarantee that their concerns will be taken seriously by any contractor which is hired by Penn to run Dining Services. I will work to ensure that this never happens.

Indeed, even as I write this, it occurs to me that I may be too late. His statements, both in the DP and in the Almanac, that "there are absolutely no ongoing negotiations with any outside vendor regarding outsourcing Dining Services" is a matter of semantics. If negotiations had already occurred, and the deal signed, all of this would be a moot point. The rather well-timed article in the DP(6/13/96), and his response to it, in which he made statements similar to the one above, leaves unanswered the question of whether negotiations, which have been conducted without student input, are already complete. This question is one that I, among others, am still awaiting a sufficient answer to, and I hope that one will be forthcoming, for the sake of the students and the employees who I believe would be negatively affected in this matter.

-- William James Walton, C '96

Response to Mr. Walton

Working with an external consultant, a team comprised of students, faculty and senior administrators will be spending the fall semester assessing campus-wide food services at Penn, including those provided by Penn as well as those provided by the outside market. The result of this analysis will be to identify those services that the University should be providing (either directly or in collaboration with outside vendors) and those services that we should not provide. The study will include, but not be limited to, the services provided by University Dining Services.

As a direct result of that analysis, we will take the spring semester to evaluate whether there are areas for potential partnerships with outside vendors in addressing the master plan for food services on campus. Until we reach that point, it is premature to enter into discussions on outsourcing Dining Services, since that may or may not be part of the solution. There are no negotiations currently going on with any outside contractor and there is no "deal" already in place.

The purpose of this study is to support the University's 21st Century academic initiative by providing the highest quality food services at the best price for the University community. Whatever set of solutions is implemented, will be done in an environment that respects and treats the employees of Dining Services fairly.

Steven D. Murray
Vice President for Business Services

Ed. Note: See also statement by Executive Vice President John Fry.


Volume 43 Number 3
September 10, 1996

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