Some Food For Thought

By Oracle

For months, a debate has been brewing behind closed doors.

After tiresome discussion, the Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) board  has decided not to adopt a motion set up by several members that would increase student representation on the board to the maximum allotment of 50 percent.

We at The New Paltz Oracle believe the CAS board has made a serious oversight in denying more student representation.

Particularly at this moment — a time when CAS is responsible for crafting a Request For Proposal (RFP) draft that will be sent to prospective food service providers when the contract of the incumbent provider, Sodexo, runs out — the need for student input is paramount.

On their website, CAS states they are charged with “enriching campus life.” If the board is steadfast in this belief, how can they justify not having the maximum amount of students on their board — who would be the only way to truly gauge what the “campus” would like to be “enriched” with.

However, after CAS tabled the motion set forth by current student senators on the board at their meeting on Sept. 12 and then voted down the motion when it was discussed at their next meeting on Sept. 19, it appears to us that a serious divide between what CAS claims they do and what they actually practice is disturbingly evident.

Yes, more student representation would require the board to amend their bylaws and have them approved by SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian, but to flaunt the board’s intention to bring the student needs and desires to the campus and then shy away from increasing student representation seems counterintuitive.

Of course, there are other ways to gauge student desires, such as the survey sent out by Envision Strategies earlier in the year that was used to craft the current draft of the RFP.

The survey clearly stated what students want to see in their new service provider: more sustainable food. The student senators, in addition to wanting more representation on the board, desired specific language about the amount of sustainable food the new provider would be required to offer on our campus.

In our minds, the only way the CAS board can truly stand by their promise of “enriching” the campus would be to adhere to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of students and put that wording into the RFP before sending it out.

At the Sept. 19 meeting, faculty and staff members of the board said they believed adding student representation might dilute other voting constituencies on the board and therefore give students a larger voting block.

One member said that the board’s current configuration has been solid for such a long time that a change would disrupt its balance.

We believe they are missing the point.

Students are the ones who will be eating this food — those who live on campus are required by the college to have a meal plan — so it only makes sense that they would have the loudest and most influential voice on the board.

Even if the student representation on the board is transient and will change from year to year — something faculty and staff members cited as a reason for their voting down of the proposal — the need for students to have a loud and empowered voice is imperative.

In fact, a fresh crop of minds, ideas and beliefs should be welcomed by the board, and should not be something they shudder in fear of.

CAS board members have said they feel putting specifics into the RFP could drive up costs and alienate potential food service providers, but if they truly stand by their supposed convictions, this should be a far and distant second priority to providing the students of SUNY New Paltz with what they desire.

It is time for CAS to stop cooking up ways to avoid the issues at hand and stop running the student representatives on the board through a bureaucratic cog. If they truly believe in what their website says, our desires for food options need to be first and foremost on their plate.