New plans for Terrace
In an email to all students June 9, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union president Nick Gibson announced that, effective immediately, the Terrace Food Court would be operated by Aramark — the same corporation that currently manages the university’s dining hall along with food service operations at numerous other campuses.
The Terrace, once it reopens in September, will feature a Spring Rolls Go franchise and a Subway will replace the current Mr. Sub location. While all current student employees will be retained in the changeover, four full-time staff members have been left out of the new agreement and student managers are not guaranteed to have positions come September.
Gibson said that WLUSU had approached Aramark during negotiations for the union’s latest operating agreement with the university. “We were taking so many organizational resources away from direct student support and putting it into the day-to-day operations of a food service,” he said. “It just drains resources and that’s not something the students’ union is here for.”
“We really have got to a point in the Terrace where we would not be able to provide much more service than we already provide.”
The agreement with Aramark means that WLUSU retains some measure of control over pricing and other aspects of the Terrace, while letting Aramark take care of the general operations. “We’re in an enviable position because we don’t have to deal with the day-to-day operations, but we’re in a deal that’s financially viable for us but also critical role,” Gibson added, though he was unable to discuss specific financial details.
Aramark’s Higher Education branch regional manager Mary Anne Thomas said that the arrangement, “Made sense for everyone.”
“We’ve committed to 100 per cent employment of existing student employees they already have on board and we’ll continue to add new employment opportunities for students as we go along,” she added, noting that while Aramark currently employs a management team on campus for the dining hall, the Terrace will get a separate team to oversee it.
“We felt that it was probably needed for the first year,” Thomas explained of the distinct managers. “There will be a lot of things to work through and we only have a short period of time this summer to make it all happen.”
Gibson explained that there had been efforts made to ensure that the full-time employees being let go would be notified first and as soon as possible, though there was still little notice given due to the process of the negotiations. “I had to sit through those meetings, you look across the table and picture that being your parents or your dad there and it’s difficult,” he said. “Ultimately my role is to ensure that students at large are being served properly, and I think the student employees have been served really well.”
Fourth-year film and cultural studies student Jackie Twomey has worked at the Union Market in the Terrace since Sept. 2008. She was cautiously optimistic about the changeover, though she noted that employees were facing losing a promised 25-cent raise and were uncertain what would be expected of them from the new management.
“The Terrace for us isn’t just a job,” she said. “I’ve devoted so much time to the Terrace since first year because I love the environment and love working there — I’m just nervous it will be different.”
Gibson said that it was more than likely Aramark would retain the student managers, though nothing was being guaranteed. “Ultimately Aramark has expressed to us … that they’re very happy about how we go about our hiring so they’ll see how these leaders work and they’ll probably put them in the exact equivalent positions,” he explained.