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Sharp questions

System chancellor says employees will be taken care of throughout outsourcing

Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07


James Thompson — THE BATTALION

A&M System Chancellor John Sharp explains outsourcing plans to the Student Senate and custodial workers Wednesday evening at the General Services building.

Student Senators and facilities service employees discontent with the recent announcement of outsourcing facilities services led Student Body President Jeff Pickering to take action.

Pickering called a special session Wednesday night to hear from Chancellor John Sharp about the decision to begin the process of outsourcing facilities services. Outsourcing would transfer management responsibility of facilities services to a private company.

For students, this could mean aesthetic changes to campus or new on-campus dining options. Staff members fear it could mean the loss of their jobs. Dozens of service employees turned out to protest.

Sharp said the goal behind outsourcing student services would be to increase revenue. He said the easiest place to start is with Dining Services.

The on-campus food service has been losing money for the past six years, Sharp said, and, if outsourced to a private company, the problem could be solved.

In the coming weeks, students can expect to see private company representatives on campus conducting surveys to learn which foods students would like and what it would take to get students to eat on campus.

"Most of the other universities within the A&M system have a system of privatized food service," Sharp said. "And the student surveys are always excellent."

Sharp and University President R. Bowen Loftin will appoint a committee of nine members, including one student, with the job to analyze proposals and make a decision on whether or not to privatize.

Appointing only one student voice in the committee raised concerns among the Student Senate.

"This is a change that will significantly affect students," Student Senator Andrew Jancaric said. "I do not think that having only one student voice on a nine-member, non-binding advisory committee is enough of a student perspective for this very important change."

Student Senator Mark Womack shared Jancaric's opinion, but also expressed concerns involving the establishment of priorities. Womack said the university should prioritize maintaining the quality of these services, keep the costs reasonable for students and take care of current staff.

"I feel that most students on this campus very highly value the staff that we have here," Womack said. "For me the idea that there would be any sort of jeopardy to even just a few of [the staff] is unacceptable."

Sharp said, referring to his past experiences with outsourcing, that staff workers rarely lose their jobs, but some management positions may change.

Student Senator Will Pittman said he doesn't think outsourcing is a good idea because of the people who will be affected.

"People that staff these buildings are the people that actually run this place, and without those people we can't function as students," Pittman said.

Pickering said he presently didn't have an opinion on whether or not outsourcing would be beneficial for the University, but did voice his opinion on major policy changes such as these.

"My opinion on any matters that have to do with major policy shifts is that even when you are just looking into them you have to do it slowly, you have to do it carefully, and you have to do it meticulously," Pickering said.

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