Dal student council rejects university's food proposal

Council votes for student-run food service in the Student Union Building

Dalhousie student council votes on the university's food contract proposal on Wednesday. (Photo: Geoff Bird)

The Dalhousie student council has refused to hand over control of food services in the Student Union Building to the university. Instead, it wants to draw up its own rules on how food will be sold in the SUB.

The university approached the student union with a proposal to merge food contracts because of its plan to build a new residence near the SUB. It needs a new cafeteria to feed at least 300 students.

Both the Dalhousie Student Union and the university's food service contracts are set to expire this year, creating the opportunity for a joint contract. Under the plan, the student union would have lost much of its decision-making power over food.

The university offered to spend $6 million towards a SUB expansion if the student union signed on.

But council rejected the proposal in a vote on Wednesday.

Michael Kovendi, head of finance and operations with the student union, said he thought the university's proposal focused mainly on a new cafeteria and not on improvements to the SUB.

"I don't think the capital expansion project is the objective here for the university," he said.

Several councillors said they liked the idea of more space but weren't sold on the university's offer.

"It seems like we're on the hook for any cost overruns," said Ben Wedge, a senate representative on council.

Dustin Griffin, the representative for law students, was the lone voice of support for the proposal, arguing that the student union doesn't have the capacity to manage food services. He said students would be better served by a contract managed by the university.

When it became clear he was on the losing side, Griffin offered a warning, "I hope this will be positive in the end because it will force us to get our asses in gear and do it right."

The SUB's food future

The outcome of the vote didn't come as a surprise. Last week, Chris Saulnier, DSU president, said he thought that council should not give up its "sovereignty over food."

On Wednesday, Saulnier offered a glimpse of what future food service may look like in the SUB in the future.

He said student union executives have been in discussions with consultants on how to operate a student-run food service.

Saulnier said they're creating a business plan that outlines the student union's expectations from food providers, such as requiring a minimum amount of locally sourced foods, the types of food that can be sold and which franchises should set up in the SUB.

He said it will be up to bidders to put forward plans that "match with our values and expectations."

Council voted to extend its current contract with Sodexho for one more year to give it time to weigh its options.

Members from the Loaded Ladle, a group that provides cheap and locally sourced meals on campus, were supportive of the student council's plans.

Aaron Beale, a member of the Loaded Ladle, said he hopes the student union will "keep up the momentum" and work towards providing a better food service in the SUB.

Dal's reaction

Meanwhile, a spokesman from Dalhousie said the university is waiting for a consultant's report on food services before it decides what to do next. It's unclear when the report will be released.

Charles Crosby, head of media relations at Dalhousie, said the university is disappointed with the student union's decision.

"There were some issues that the DSU felt pretty strongly about and we understand that," he said.

Crosby said the university's need for a new cafeteria is something that will need to be addressed soon, but he wouldn't say what the university is planning.



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