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This Week at Senate: Fields Reveals Chartwells’s Compeition

By Patrick Healy, Managing Dictator

Followed by a short—and, as Sustainability Chair Genevieve Fontana noted, sustainable—Secret Santa exchange, members of the Undergraduate Student Association opening their final weekly meeting of the semester by hearing from Dr. Harold Fields, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, about the bids Canisius received from companies wishing to be Canisius’s official dining services partner.

Fields, who is working with Vice President for Business and Finance Tim Balkin to negotiate the contract, said Chartwells, which has been Canisius’s dining partner for 25 years, expected Canisius to essentially just renew their contract, but Fields said the Compass-owned company has been put on notice that “things are different now.”

Discussing the lack of competition for Chartwells over the past few decades, Fields said “the important context is that there’s not been much consistency in [his] office. The person who negotiated the previous contract left a few years back,” and Fields and Balkin are still fairly new hires to the college.

Much of the presentation was devoted to the proposal of the other company to submit a bid. Parkhurst, a smaller company that operates, for example, at John Carroll University, proposed among other things a new dessert station at the dining hall, more diverse menus and a robot-staffed shop akin to Amazon’s autonomous grocery stores. Fields said in response to a senator’s question about the last item that it would not displace any of the dozen students currently employed by dining services.

Fields also responded in the negative to student concerns that the smaller Parkhurst company might charge more per meal. The dean of students declined to discuss the overall finances of the deal, citing the complexities of dining services contracts. While he said Canisius would likely sign a five to ten year contract, the school would have opt-out clauses in case the winning company did not live up to expectations. Fields stressed that either company would be held accountable. “They won’t get a free pass.”

Fields said both Chartwells and Parkhurst expressed commitments to sustainability and sourcing local meat—”they are pretty even in that regard”—as well as investment in dining infrastructure and extension of dining hours. If Parkhurst replaced Chartwells, only Chartwells managers would be displaced. Fields said it is a common practice in the industry for non-managers to take comparable positions with a new company.

An audience member asked if students would have the opportunity to taste test both companies. Fields said they would not. Senators expressed that interest groups such as commuters should have input into the choice of dining services partners, but Fields said that there is no formal student committee to evaluate the options. The USA, as representative of the student body, is the first—and only—group to see the proposal.

After the presentation, Sophomore Ian Gotthelf was officially appointed as the USA’s Public Safety Liaison. In his new role, Gotthelf will bring student concerns to the attention of Public Safety Director Kimberly Beaty.

Two students were sworn in after a special election to fill vacancies on the USA executive board. Elnara Karadzhayeva, who defeated current USA Vice Speaker Mitch Popovski, will be vice president for marketing and public relations. Gee Singh, uncontested in her race, will be vice president for business and finance.

USA President Jahare Hudson discussed plans currently under consideration by the executive board to have all big events on campus, as was the case for Canisius President Steve Stoute’s inauguration, begin with an acknowledgement that Canisius sits on land originally lived on by Native Americans.

Hudson also floated plans to create gender-inclusive housing in dorms. After Hudson said that LGBTQ+ people would not all be put on a single floor, Senator Gabby Kaderli suggested that each floor’s bathroom suite be used to house LGBTQ+ people.

In his meeting with Tom Ciminelli about the persistent problem of fruit flies in clubrooms, Hudson said the cause of the infestation was discovered to be the drains in the bathrooms below the dining hall. Hudson spared the Senate details of his briefing about the reproductive cycle of fruit flies, but he did report that the school will try a more aggressive approach to remove the flies by the beginning of the spring 2023 semester. Hudson said that if the flies were not gone, he would issue an ultimatum demanding that they need to be.

Hudson concluded his lengthy executive report with news of potential expansion of the USA to include graduate students. He said that graduate students have expressed an interest in accessing the resources available to undergraduates, but that they would need to pay the undergraduates’ student activities fee. This “fundamental change,” as Hudson called it, “will not be a next-semester thing.” Hudson, who USA sources say is planning to run for re-election, says it would likely take place fall 2024 at the earliest.

Hudson noted that the change would force the current name—”Undergraduate” Student Association—to be modified. For potential new names, Senator Meg Campbell suggested the endearingly ominous “The Senate,” while Student Interests Chair Carlo Mastrodonato offered the attractively alliterative “Golden Griffin Government.”

Attendant to the expansion would be a potential shrinkage of the current undergraduate Senate cohorts from five per class year to, well, fewer than that. He cited last semester’s open positions as evidence that there are often not enough students to fill the existing positions.

Surprisingly, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development and advisor to USA Jason Francey did not have anything to report, though as is unofficial custom he delayed the end of the meeting with a last-minute remark, this time wishes of luck on exams and holiday cheer.

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