By Ramisha Farooq
Despite student dissatisfaction with Ryerson’s current food services provider, no alternative to the longtime contract has been firmly established.
Ryerson’s current contract with Aramark expires May 31, and the administration has only a few months to decide whether to renew the agreement.
Julia Hanigsberg, vice-president administration and finance at Ryerson, said it may be time to change food services on campus.
“I see food at Ryerson as a way to enhance student success, as a way to build student engagement and simply a way to make students, faculty and staff happy,” Hanigsberg said.
“I’m not satisfied with the status quo and want to work on the kinds of offerings and price point.” But the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) says university administration is extremely reluctant to consider new student-friendly alternatives to Aramark.
Andrew McAllister, the RSU vicepresident operations, said the school is not showing even the slightest interest in any of the models they have proposed.
“The school believes that everything can be solved with a contract,” he said.
“After reviewing recent survey results, we see that there is clearly a problem with the food on campus and I’m very worried that [students] are not going to be involved in the decision-making process.”
McAllister recently proposed to Hanigsberg the creation of a Good Food Co-op, a not-for-profit corporation that would provide students with the majority of their meals.
Another proposed model looks to mimic Guelph University’s system, which boasts several student-run venues such as Ryerson’s Oakham Café.
Both proposals were rejected.
President Sheldon Levy stressed that the administration is aware of problems with Aramark, and that the school is actively considering alternatives.
“We’re trying to construct the [Request for Proposal] to be as open and as engaging and providing [of] opportunities as we can,” he said. “And a lot of consideration of the RSU’s concerns are being taken in. But if you ask me, do I see the possibility of Aramark not continuing? Yes I do.”
Surveys by both the RSU and administration pointed to student dissatisfaction with the current system The RSU survey found that 63 per cent of students believe food on campus is expensive.
Seventeen per cent said they didn’t know.
Kelsey Courvoisier, a first-year criminology student living in residence, said that although meal-plans are convenient, the majority of her food comes from off campus due to lack of variety.
“Wouldn’t you expect school food to be cheaper in order to help students who are strapped for money?” she said.
Aramark has been serving Ryerson since 1993 and currently provides for more than 400,000 students in private and secondary schools, colleges and universities across Canada.
“We have been flexible with [the school] but, they do not want to cooperate,” said McAllister.
According to the RSU survey, student run Oakham was the favourite on-campus eatery, due to its variety of choices such as vegetarian, halal, vegan and gluten-free offerings.
Though McAllister would like to see a proliferation of student-run venues like Oakham, so far no such plans have been announced.