The vast majority of Johnson and Wales University students working for Brown Dining Services will lose their jobs if, in its February meeting, the Corporation approves a budget-cutting measure recommended by the Organizational Review Committee.
The recommendation was issued by the ORC's Auxilary Service Units team — whose purview includes Dining Services and the Faculty Club — as part of the ORC's larger effort to reduce the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. If approved, the measure would close the Gate during lunch hours and reduce the Ivy Room's midday offerings. Union workers displaced by the changes would receive shifts currently filled by JWU students.
The University currently has a partnership with JWU to bring two students in the fall and two in the spring to work at Brown's dining facilities as part of JWU's co-op program, which requires students to take time off from classes and work in an industry related to their field of study. This program would not be affected by the change, but all other positions held by JWU students would be terminated at the end of this academic year, said Michael Ward, a senior at JWU and floor manager at Josiah's.
Ward said he was "completely devastated" by the change. "I understand that financially it's a smart decision … but it's been such a great partnership."
"I've made so many close friends at Brown," he added.
Jo's and other dining facilities could save money by focusing on student theft, efficiency and waste, Ward said, adding that cutting jobs should be a last resort. He predicted a "major decline in the quality of service" at Jo's.
JWU students in Dining Services were notified of the recommendation in a letter from Gretchen Willis, director of dining services, on Feb. 4, two days after the ORC released an executive summary of its report, Ward said. Jo's manager Sean DeBobes informed JWU students that Dining Services would try to find positions for them in catering, Ward said, but nothing concrete has been offered.
"It was determined that these two modest changes (to Gate and Ivy Room lunch) would have the smallest impact comparatively to the closing and/or restructuring of any other unit in Dining Services," the Auxiliary Service team — which was charged with cutting the $59.2 million combined auxiliary services budget by $1.5 million — wrote in its report.
In an e-mail to The Herald, Richard Bova, senior associate dean for residential and dining services and leader of the ORC's Auxiliary Service Units team, declined to comment on the recommendation until it is reviewed by the Corporation at its meeting Feb. 25 through 27.
Ward, a nutrition major with an associate's degree in culinary arts, said workplace experience in food preparation is "extremely important" for getting a job after graduation.
"Anyone can have a degree," he said.
In an e-mail to The Herald, Lisa Pelosi, director of communications and media relations at JWU's Providence campus, wrote, "We have many students who work part time and have found part-time jobs in Providence and other locations; so if our students aren't being hired by Brown, they will find employment elsewhere."
But "it's not easy to find a job in Providence" in the restaurant industry, Ward said.