Macalester, fast-approaching the end of its ten-year contract with Bon Appétit, has elected to extend their contract renegotiation period for another year in an attempt to better incorporate student feedback.
“Our intent is to just take a longer time to get possible changes or improvements that we might choose to make — get them right before we do the formalities of putting everything in writing in a long-form contract,” Associate Vice President for Finance Patricia Langer said. “I wouldn’t say postponed, I would say we’re just extending the process of the negotiation.” According to Langer, the college needs more time to consult with the community — especially students — before they officially sign a new long-term contract. “What we have unofficially talked about is simply renewing one year under our existing contract terms, while we work through making sure that we get this next contract right for what our students want, what our staff an d faculty want and need,” Langer said.
The decision came as Macalester began to review Bon Appétit’s contract, which ends in April, and prepare for renegotiation. Compass Group, Bon Appétit’s parent company, approached the college to offer their Onsite Insights (OSI) services. During renegotiations, OSI will work with the college to better understand the priorities of the community.
That community outreach process began with a dining survey sent to all Macalester students, faculty and staff on Feb. 17. The survey included a variety of multiple choice questions as well as three open response questions.
“We had almost 600 students take the survey, so it was well-received,” Director of Purchasing, Auxiliaries & Accounts Payable Matt Rumpza said. While they haven’t received a full analysis of the survey data yet, Rumpza and Langer agreed that the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
The college plans to make the results of the survey available once they get a report on the data and consult the Institutional Research Board (IRB) which, as part of its charge, oversees all research performed on human subjects on campus — that includes surveys.
OSI also led four student focus groups on Feb. 27 and 28. Langer and Rumpza purposefully chose not to attend the sessions to ensure their presence didn’t bias the conversation.
“We actually asked up front whether it’d be a good idea for us to be there or not, and it was recommended that if students knew who we were, that they might bias their answers or their recommendations because we were in the room,” Langer said. “I will tell you I had spies in the room so I knew what was going on, and we got great feedback.”
For Langer and Rumpza, this feedback and the data from the survey will drive the negotiation process as it continues over the next year.
“As I’m sure you know about your peers, they’re not soft-spoken people,” Langer said, laughing. “We had just tons of ideas and suggestions and feedback. It really validated this whole idea of hitting pause and reaching out to the community to find out what the community is really focused on and interested in.”
They hope that this will be a catalyst for keeping students involved in and informed on the renegotiation.
“One of the things that Matt [Rumpza] and I talk about often is just the fact that we want to make sure that we continually remind ourselves that what we think is a great idea in Café Mac, is not necessarily something that our current or future students would think is a great idea,” Langer said.
“I think once we start analyzing and are able to look at all the data we got from our students we’ll determine what the next, best steps are to make sure that we keep our students connected to what this future looks like.”