University News

UCS addresses dining, social event policy

U. looks into contractors to soup up dining options, year-old alcohol policy deemed successful

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2016

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow ’79 said the University will request proposals on dining from two firms.

Brown Dining Services is investigating partnerships with national contracting firms in the areas of management and professional development, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow ’79 told the Undergraduate Council of Students at its general body meeting Wednesday.

The University has sent requests for proposals to reform and improve campus dining to two firms, the names of which are being withheld. Representatives from both firms will visit campus next week, Chernow said.

If either of the firms submits proposals, they will be reviewed by an evaluation committee consisting of three students and four staff members: one from procurement, two from dining and one from business services, Chernow said, adding that she will serve on the committee. Proposals would be implemented over the summer if deemed acceptable by the committee.

Chernow met with nearly every member of the dining staff  to gauge interest on such a partnership, she said, adding that the response was “terrific.” The University will still have “complete financial control” of its dining program, she added, and the changes will not involve any outsourcing of labor.

“I’m asking these companies to tour our facilities, meet with our staff and some of our students and give us ideas for how to improve our program,” Chernow said.

Students have expressed concerns about the variety of culinary options in dining halls and the presentation of those options; oftentimes, they will choose packaged meals at places like the Blue Room over the dining halls, Chernow said. A primary objective of the national firm partnerships will be to “create a reason for students to eat in our dining halls,” she said.

A number of peer institutions have adopted similar partnerships, including Roger Williams University, Chernow said. She noted that other elite institutions, such as Penn, New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have implemented strategies that include outsourcing dining services labor, an outcome that Brown will avoid.

Possible tactics to increase student satisfaction with dining options could include a wider adoption of the Andrews Commons’ model, where the food is made in front of students, Chernow said. “Creating food destinations is a focus,” she said, and training programs for chefs in making food from scratch is a goal of the initiative.

During its meeting, UCS also evaluated recommendations from the Alcohol and Social Event Policies review released last spring in a discussion with Interim Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services MaryLou McMillan ’85, Associate Director for Off Campus Living and Programs Kate Tompkins and Director of Residential Experience Natalie Basil.

General body members provided feedback and questions to the administrators regarding the key measures in last spring’s report, including the presence of graduate student staffers on weekend nights in first-year dormitories and on Wriston Quadrangle, the ban on all parties with alcohol in residence halls and the introduction of registered events with alcohol served in common University spaces.

At a general body meeting in the fall on this topic, members expressed concern that the roles of graduate students had not been clarified, with similar concerns raised Wednesday.

“We have not sent any students to the Conduct Board based on grad student reports,” Basil said in response to these concerns.

Still, the staffers do have the authority to contact the Department of Public Safety under certain circumstances, she added. “It depends on the attitude and behavior of the student when they’re asked to alter their current status,” she said.

The University also provides free pizza and alcohol-free activities to students in select dorms and on weekend nights. Free Food Fridays, as they are known, “started out slow but now have pretty good attendance,” McMillan said.

Student groups are also taking advantage of access to the Kasper Multipurpose Room and the Underground, both located in Faunce, for registered events with alcohol for those of age. The number of registered events has remained virtually unchanged even after those that serve alcohol were removed from dormitories and consigned to those spaces, McMillan said.

Additionally, the ban on alcohol in residence halls has not created an underground party culture, Tompkins said. “Our numbers haven’t shown that things are moving off-campus,” she said, noting that Providence Police and Brown Public Safety citations, along with neighborhood noise complaints, have not spiked following implementation of the new policy.