Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Boycotting the J St. Money-pit

The Hatchet has been misleading in it's assertion that the J Street spending requirements cannot be changed. Too many of us within the student body are contented with this defeatist attitude, especially considering that students have not considered every method through which we can bring about change on this ever-important issue.

The SA should seriously consider calling for a limited boycott of Sodexho services if conventional negotiating can't get the job done. In my dealings with food service providers I've learned that nothing speaks to these companies like money; if their revenue stream is threatened, their listening abilities magically improve. Since students are the chief patrons of J St. venues (forced patrons, though some of us may be) we are certainly entitled to use this leverage to get Sodexho to listen to our demands. The J St. spending requirements do not benefit a single student on campus, and Freshmen and Sophomores in particularly must not be fond of forcing to contribute over $50 million each year to Sodexho in undeserved patronage. Should Sodexho snub our modest proposal to restore the GWorld system to what it was like just two years ago, the SA should be prepared to request that Junior and Senior students forgo J St. patronage entirely, and ask underclassmen to spend as little more than what they must. Additionally, the SA could raise additional funds by selling "J St. Stole My Lunch Money" T-shirts, also brinigng more attention to this important campus issue. Plus, I assure you they'd be sweet shirts.

As someone who has negotiated with food service contractors during my involvement with the West Des Moines city council in 2006, I'm best equipped with the knowledge and experience to argue for real change on this issue. I'm disappointed that despite holding powerful positions within the SA, Boyer, Bindleglass, and Polk have failed to bring any improvement on this issue this entire year. Although these are wonderful candidates, at this critical time the students need someone who is seriously ready to take on this issue, and that's where I come in.

A boycott would definitely be the last-resort option, but students should seriously be ready to embrace it if we're going to get serious about reclaiming our money from Sodexho. A good business earns its patronage rather than mandating it, and by this measure Sodexho has not been a good company to for the past two years. Considering what we pay for tuition, GW students clearly deserve better treatment from Sodexho.

6 comments:

Connor Walsh said...

You cannot threaten Sodexo's revenue stream. It is guaranteed under their contract with the University, hence the mandatory spending.

A boycott would not work.

There are other approaches that can and should be taken.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone thought of the novel concept of talking with Sodexo about making more efforts to improve the overall quality of the food so that the spending there wouldn't be like pulling teeth? I'm a sophomore and there are clear differences between the food from my freshman year and this year. While the changes are small (such as the Kosher deli, the rotating station near little italy, and some more fruit option), they are changes nonetheless and they are indicative of the change that can come in the future in relation to food quality.

The money issue is not going to go away anytime soon. I think we should focus our energy on something that we can change.

Chas Corbett said...

With all the bureaucrats and great minds here at GW it seems like the contract would have included a failsafe directly citing grounds for termination upon Sodexo failing to adequately meet standards outlined by said contract and demanded by its patrons, which should in turn mean the University...I wonder if our SA reps could get access to this contract to check for this...

Dan Keylin - CCAS Candidate said...

Connor is right, it would be really unlikely Sodexo would allow a quality clause to be in the contract. Regardless, it is clear the student body wants better quality food at J Street (or at least lower prices for the current food). I think Sodexo is willing to improve the quality (imagine their revenue from a place like Qdoba or Quizzno's) but we do need to get the University administration and the pesky labor union on board as well.

kareem said...

Has anyone thought about kidnapping the J-St managers and forcing them to eat their food during the week, and WOW on the weekend, for a couple weeks? I think quality will change if that happens...

All jokes aside, while idealistically a protest could work, it is highly unlikely. If anything, Sodexo would be more willing to cooperate if they had incentive (i.e. how much more money they'd receive from Qdoba instead of YaYa's).

In a previous poll here :http://my.gwu.edu/mod/poll/past.cfm?poll_id=718 , students ranked J-St eateries. While this was before the gross change, GW students didn't like the options that they kept in the transition. While I know they were not able to keep these restaurants because of Sodexo, it shows that GW probably made an unwise choice. The space being taken up by YaYa's could easily be used for Qdoba, and it would bring a much much larger revenue for the university. Then, perhaps, we could negotiate prices on other items.

Farhan Daredia said...

I believe you CAN threaten Sodexo's revenue stream. The money on our J Street accounts rolls over, meaning that if we don't spend it, it stays in our account, therefore Sodexo doesn't get the money. And even if that means that in the end we have to give them the money, delaying their revenue stream could still cause them serious problems. Unless the money is already paid to Sodexo and our GWorld's are really just gift cards... that's not cool