Amid ongoing complaints about the Usdan University Center and Bon Appétit Dining Service, a group of students retaliated with a small-scale boycott on Wednesday. Their stated grievances included high food prices, unfair workers’ rights, and the inability of the new campus center to accommodate the campus community.
“Those who participated, whether they physically sat in the Usdan space without buying food or simply did not come to the Usdan Center at all, voiced their purpose,” said Jonna Humphries ’10, one of the boycott’s organizers. “I strongly feel that those students who participated in this boycott will see the outcome of their participation in the coming weeks. The actions were effective in the sense that they helped to get a message across.”
Although 367 students joined the “Usdan Boycott” group on Facebook, Humphries estimated that probably about 100 people took part in the day’s events, which involved skipping Usdan’s à la carte lunch, but attending dinner, which is priced as a meal.
Bon Appétit Resident District Manager Delmar Crim admitted that business decreased slightly at lunch on Wednesday.
“I haven’t looked at the reports, but I’m thinking that it was down about 25 or 30 percent,” Crim said. “And there was no increase [in business] at dinner. There were about 15 to 20 people hanging around, then they all went up at once but it didn’t really affect us.”
University Center Director Dean Rick Culliton was on hand at lunchtime discussing the boycotters’ concerns.
“I understand that there’s some frustration and I knew they were having a boycott, so when I saw students handing out flyers, I stopped and asked if they wanted to ask [me] any questions,” Culliton said.
He explained that it wasn’t Bon Appétit’s decision to have lunch priced as points, but rather the result of past student input expressing that they want more flexibility with spending. He also mentioned that there are more dining staff who have health benefits under Bon Appétit than there were under Aramark.
Some students questioned whether a boycott was an effective way of addressing concerns.
“The dining service workers and their union have said that the boycott is not a good idea because if people don’t eat at Usdan it increases the likelihood that Bon Appetit will cut jobs,” said Alexis Horan ’10, a member of the United Student Labor Action Coalition (USLAC).
She emphasized USLAC’s continued pressure on the administration to take a stand on the side of the workers, and the group’s ongoing discussions with the WSA.
“We’re entirely prepared to take other actions if this still doesn’t produce results, but in a situation where Bon Appétit already has the money students paid for their dining plan, a boycott doesn’t seem to be the most effective route to change.”
WSA Dining Committee Co-Chair Becky Weiss ’10 agreed.
“Personally I feel that the boycott is ineffective,” she said. “Students have already paid for their meals, thus the points and meals that they are not using by boycotting Usdan are not hurting Bon Appétit.”
According to Weiss, the Dining Committee has been making immense progress in its two meetings this school year. She noted improvements in vegan options and a better Late Night menu.
Crim noted that Bon Appétit has created cheaper fresh fruit cups and agreed to price Saturday brunch as a meal. He said they are looking to include more price combos and half-sandwich options in the future.