Washburn Students Fed Up with Food Service Deal

TOPEKA, Kan. - Many Washburn University students are fed up with the school's food service contract and they're making it known.

Students organized a march and protest sit-in on campus Thursday of the ten-year deal between Washburn and Chartwells food service.

Students say the university didn't ask their opinion before extending the contract with Chartwells. A survey was conducted of few hundred students in the fall, but students say with more than 6,500 students, that's not an accurate representation of the student body.

Washburn student senator, Phil Norris,led Thursday's protest by marching through the student union to the Union Market, where he climbed up onto dining room seating and called for the attention of his peers.

"Fellow students of Washburn," Norris yelled, "today we are here to protest an injustice. An injustice that is central to Democratic societies: the right to a voice. A voice that was denied students on this campus on a deal that will last 10 years."

Norris said he heard complaints from a number of students after finding out the university extended its food service contract with Chartwells - agreeing Chartwells would pay for a $700,000 renovation of the food service area in the student union and continue to be the sole food service provider at the university.

Students paused to listen as Norris told them the deal was negotiated while they were on spring break, and without many of their input.

Matt Beadleston, Director of Dining Services for Chartwell, said he thinks it's great students voice their opinions. He said he hopes students understand Chartwell proposed a great renovation of the facility and that the deal is for the students.

"The renovation is not being paid for by the students. It's not being paid for by Washburn. It's being paid for by Chartwell's and it's going to take us 10 years to recoup that expense and that investment," Beadleston said.

But it's not necessarily the cost of the renovation students have a problem with. It's more the monopoly they say Chartwells has on dining services at Washburn, that would continue over the next 10 years.

"If today you are in the 2nd grade and you come to Washburn, you will eat Chartwells without a choice," said Norris.

About 30 students sat down in the union during the lunch hours - many of them with signs that read "Change we CAN'T believe in" and another displayed Chartwells on a Monopoly game board.

"We want this contract canceled and we want a voice in whatever contract Washburn decides to have for food services," Norris said. "We just want a voice. That's what it comes down to."

Beadleston says the contract is open to negotiation. If everything sticks, renovations in the Washburn Union would start when classes end in May and be complete by the start of classes in the fall.


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