Is Aramark Coming Around?
Tension over campus food services has escalated continuously over the past few years. In issuing Aramark a one-year contract extension last fall, the Department of Housing and Food Services claimed to be in search of more student input. While well intentioned, HFS seems to be looking for answers to questions it has not yet asked. Most prominently, MIT has yet to issue a firm statement to clarify the role of Aramark as student service provider or independent business. This distinction is central to the restructuring of food services on this campus.
In the meantime, Aramark should exert its best efforts to make a case for maintaining its monopoly control. Under pressure from MITto bolster failing endeavors like the Next House and Baker House dining halls, Aramark has been squirming in the heat of financial loss. With the firing of popular west campus manager Eddie Cogliano last November, Aramark made it clear that profit margins and organizational concerns supersede customer satisfaction. Though nominal efforts were made to accommodate student outrage, Aramark showed no significant concern for the effects of its callousness.
In light of this record, last week's decision to promote General Manager Robert McBurney comes as a first hopeful sign that student concern has sifted through to Aramark administrators. Though moving McBurney to human resources director of the Eastern region represents a promotion in some sense, Aramark has effectively fired him from campus. Whether Aramark did so to comply with student wishes, or to improve the company's chances, remains to be seen.
Furthermore, Assistant General Manager Elizabeth Emery, who will succeed McBurney, has received high praise so far from students and administrators alike for her receptive attitude. Emery appears enthusiastic, confident, and open to new ideas. These qualities are long overdue in a food service manager, and The Tech supports her promotion.
The shifting of upper management within Aramark does nothing to resolve the fundamental problem of how MIT will proceed to manage the operations of its dining services. This will no doubt take a commitment on the part of the Institute to consider the needs of the student population over business concerns. Such considerations may or may not include Aramark as a player.
What the removal of McBurney does mean, however, is that Aramark is willing to take measures to enhance its ability to cope with the pressure it faces. Regardless of whether the move will prove to have any bearing on Aramark's tenure with MIT, we commend Aramark for its willingness to compromise, and hope that similar thinking will prevail among all parties involved in the current food services free-for-all.