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Food-service talks for YSU turn sour

Published: Fri, May 31, 2013 @ 12:08 a.m.

By Denise Dick



Discussion of a new dining services provider at Youngstown State University descended into accusations of impropriety.

Sodexo, the university’s food service provider for 26 years, announced last February it was leaving campus, citing profitability problems. Its contract ends June 30.

That same month, YSU issued requests for proposals to potential vendors.

Four companies visited campus from February through March ,and a 12-member committee was formed. The committee included university staff and three students.

Earlier this month, committee members submitted a letter to Jack Fahey, vice president for student affairs, recommending Chartwells, a company with offices throughout the country. The letter was signed by all 12 committee members.

“The decision comes after many weeks of careful review, thoughtful debate and hours spent in provider presentations,” the letter says.

It cited the company’s commitment, options available, meal plans and the financial proposal.

The other three companies were Aramark of Hudson, Ohio; AVI Fresh of Warren and Metz of Dallas, Pa.

The companies submitted proposals that included forecasts for commissions to YSU over several years.

But Trustee Harry Meshel at a meeting Thursday of trustees’ Academic Quality and Student Success Committee questioned the validity of Chartwells’ numbers.

The company projects it would pay $249,237 to YSU the first year and $375,777 the second year.

“That’s an increase of 50 percent,” he said.

He called the numbers “fallacious” and said he had met with a representative of AVI, which is local and hires university graduates.

Fahey said the increase is based on the company’s plan to open a Chick-fil-A the second year. “It’s the most popular franchise on college campuses,” he said.

Meshel said AVI told Fahey it would set up any plan the university wanted. Fahey disputed that.

“The one who wants Chick-fil-A is you,” Meshel said.

“I could care less about Chick-fil-A,” Fahey countered. “The students want Chick-fil-A.”

Trustee Carole Weimer said she has concerns about a Chick-fil-A on campus after the controversy last fall regarding the owner’s statements about gays and lesbians. The university is supposed to be a place that embraces diversity, she said.

Meshel then said Fahey assembled the committee of people who report to him. Meshel said of one member: “He’s your tool.”

Trustee Delores Crawford then suggested members of the trustees committee meet with the committee that made the recommendation.

Fahey asked for assurances that those committee members not be subjected to similar accusations.

“It’s one thing for you to accuse me of making underhanded deals — I can take it,” he said. “But I don’t want you to make those accusations of my students.”

Weimer, who chairs the Academic Quality and Student Success Committee, said members would be respectful.

Hiring policies

At a trustees’ University Affairs Committee meeting later Thursday, confusion erupted regarding recently changed hiring policies.

Last month, the panel changed the policies to require board approval for all hiring except classified employees. Later that same month, it was changed again so that the policy didn’t apply to faculty and coaches.

That left administrative personnel, which includes personnel at the Rich Center for Autism.

J. Georgia Backus, center director, wrote a letter to trustees this month, requesting an exemption from that policy. She said the center employs a one-specialist-to-two-children ratio and if someone resigns, the center must be able to hire a replacement quickly.

A delay would mean “insufficient staff to meet student need” and the center will “have to inform one or more parents we can no longer serve their children...,” Backus wrote.

The committee agreed to recommend to the full board that an exemption be granted for the Rich Center.

But that brought up more discussion about which personnel trustees want more of a say in hiring.

Weimer and Len Schiavone said they intended it to apply to higher-level administrators including vice presidents, directors, provosts, executive directors, deans and others.

“You know my stand,” Crawford said. “I think it’s causing undue hardship and it’s micromanaging.”

Holly Jacobs, university general counsel, said her office would write new policies to reflect the board’s wishes and submit them for approval.

Meshel then objected to the promotion of Jonelle Beatrice, formerly director of the Center for Student Progress, to executive director of student life. The person who previously held the position retired.

Meshel said he believes it’s a position that can wait for the arrival of the new president next month. He was in favor, however, of the appointment of Atty. Cynthia Kravitz as director of the Equal Opportunity and Policy Compliance.

Outgoing President Cynthia E. Anderson said the student life position is the retention arm of the university, and retention is where the university is focusing efforts to stabilize enrollment, which has decreased the last couple of years.

Committee members approved both appointments, as well as a handful of other positions — and Meshel walked out.

Outgoing Trustee Scott Schulick, who chairs the University Affairs Committee, said trustees have made a mess of things. “I hope we come back to reality,” he said. “We can’t take five, six hours to approve these one-by-one while, in my opinion, Rome is burning.”


1republicanRick(1716 comments)posted 3 years ago

Trustee Carol Weimer wants to censor Chick-fil-a because their political views don't align?

This woman should be asked to resign. That is a stunning statement from a supposed leader of the university.

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2redeye1(5612 comments)posted 3 years ago

As I read the article it sounds like good old Harry didn't get his way. As far as a Chick-fil , Let the students decided !! If they don't want it , they won't go to it to eat. My sons would welcome it. IT'S good FOOD !!!!!!!! Maybe its time for good old Harry to retire and so that YSU gets some new and fresh ideas

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3YUYMe(2 comments)posted 3 years ago

It's not what you know it's who you know. That's the YSU way. It's the driver for committee assignments, filling positions and just about any thing else. Wasn't President Anderson's appointment a perfect example? Didn't Mr. Schulick have a good deal to do with that? It seems odd to now criticize others. Talented people are leaving YSU because talent and expertise doesn't get you anywhere. That's why YSU keeps getting in a deeper hole, enrollment, budget and so on. If the Board doesn't correct the internal weaknesses of YSU, who will? That's not micromanaging.

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4JimmyB(18 comments)posted 3 years ago

I agree with Guin96.

Why is a trustee sticking his nose into this in the first place? Doesn't YSU have administration capable of making a business decision?

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5maeby12(9 comments)posted 3 years ago

Finally, trustees are getting involved. For generations the biggest problem YSU has had is nepotism and the buddy system. As soon as an administrator rises to the level of his or her incompetence, they turn around and pull all their friends up with them. It is never about credentials, although they will hit every mark to make it look as though they are carefully considering each candidate. Vice-Presidents should have ph.d.'s. They do at every other institution. Trustees need to be in charge of each new administrative hiring opportunity, as well as large increases in pay/promotions. Bring in new blood. There should be a freeze on hiring anyway. Doesn't YSU have financial problems?

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