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Letter: Dining services update

To the Editor:

On Oct. 16, The Herald published an article with the good news that a project to install air conditioning in the Sharpe Refectory is moving forward. However, the article implied that recent actions of the Brown Student Labor Alliance drove this decision. Though we appreciate the input of the SLA, I am writing to clarify that the decision was, in fact, the result of a thoughtful and deliberate three-year process on the part of staff in the Department of Facilities Management  in collaboration with Brown Dining Services.

Installing air conditioning in a 67-year-old facility is not a simple undertaking. The University’s approval of a $3 million investment to fund the installation of A/C in the Ratty culminates a process that began in Fall 2015. Over the past three years, the University made several major infrastructure upgrades that were required to install A/C while assessing the feasibility of different solutions. The path that was chosen aligns with Brown’s sustainability goals and will keep the Ratty operational to meet the full dining needs of the campus community during the project.

While we recognize the importance of student activism in bringing pressing issues to the University’s attention, it’s essential to note that the administration, Brown’s dining workers and advocates from the SLA share the same goal — a healthy and safe work environment for all employees. The University has an effective working relationship with Dining Service workers and their union, and I am pleased to share that after productive conversations on a new contract for those workers, union members voted last week to ratify a new three-year agreement that will take effect Nov. 1. The full agreement will be publicly accessible on the Brown website when it takes effect.

Another Herald article on Oct. 12 raised concerns about the work hours of students who are employed in dining. No student should feel pressured to prioritize the demands of a campus job over academic work, and we are actively working in good faith with student managers to resolve the challenges they’ve outlined. We have approved a wage increase for all student workers in dining and will be creating a student/staff working group to conduct a full review of the current program and make recommendations on changes to improve it moving forward. BuDS is a student-founded and student-run program that has successfully operated for nearly 50 years. We are fully dedicated to achieving new solutions to ensure that the program’s next half century is as successful as its first.

Barbara Chernow

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration

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