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.
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.”