Eastern Michigan University’s Board of Regents yesterday passed a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1st. As part of the spending measure, the Regents approved a contract with food vendor Chartwells. The decision to privatize the school’s dining services did not come about without some criticism.
About 70 protesters rallied outside EMU’s Welch Hall just before noon on Tuesday. The crowd, many of them EMU staff and union supporters, are critical of Regents for approving a ten year contract with privately-owned company Chartwells to provide dining services at the school.
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Howard Bunsis is an EMU professor and union representative. He says the Board of Regents are rushing into an agreement which could have negative consequences. “We want them to do the right thing. [To do} what’s right by our students," Bunsis says. "Not to take action that makes them pay more money. Putting extra dollars on them for poor quality food is not the way to help our students succeed.”
“The agreement with Chartwells has in it, that [in] the early years, there will be no [financial] changes from their point of view," says EMU Interim President Donald Loppnow. "The Board of Regents is responsible for determining student food costs, not Chartwells," Loppnow says. "But, regardless, our Board of Regents ultimately establishes what the board [dining and lodging] costs for our students are. That will be true over the ten year period of our relationship with Chartwells.”
Bunsis says some student employees with dining services are concerned their jobs will be at risk under a for-profit company, but student representatives supported a contract with Chartwells during a Board of Regents meeting Tuesday.
Tanisha Morton is Eastern's Student Body President. She says, “after doing research and listening to a lot of different opinions, I feel like privatization is a good thing for students and will benefit the students."
The contract with Chartwells begins July 1. EMU administrators say many of the renovations to the school’s dining areas should be completed by the fall.
A tuition increase for incoming EMU freshmen was also approved for next school year. The Board of Regents also approved a tuition and mandatory fees increase of 4.1 percent this fall for undergraduate students. An entering freshman undergraduate taking 30 credits this year will pay $11,209 in tuition and mandatory fees. Eastern’s tuition compares favorably with its public university peers in Michigan. Eastern’s tuition increases over the last eight years have averaged less than 3.8 percent.
The Regents also approved a University recommendation that all non-resident undergraduates entering Eastern in fall 2016 and after be charged at the in-state tuition rate. Current non-resident students will continue to pay the current out-of-state rates, but will not see an increase to their 2016-17 academic year tuition rate.