Student Association senators overwhelmingly passed legislation Tuesday night calling for a March 7 boycott of J Street if Aramark, the University’s food service provider, does not respond to student needs.
Tim Saccocia (CCAS-U), who sponsored the legislation, cited shortened hours of operation, lack of adherence to J Street’s current schedule and inflated prices as issues of concern to students. The legislation also cites isolated seating, inadequate healthy and kosher dining options and a lack of breakfast options as problems that need to be addressed by Aramark to avoid a boycott.
“We can rise up as a student body and enact changes,” Saccocia said. “We obviously have a problem with our J Street dining and if Aramark doesn’t do anything about it, then we have a response.”
Saccocia and Ryan DeMerlis (ESIA-U), the bill’s co-sponsor, plan to meet with Aramark officials by Feb. 23 to discuss the complaints, all of which have been generated by students within the SA. If negotiations fall apart by the March deadline, the SA will ask students not to use J Street for a day.
Amelia Powell, Aramark’s marketing director for GW, directed questions to University officials. Two Aramark officials at the company’s national headquarters declined to comment and also referred questions to University officials.
If a boycott occurs, Saccocia plans to offer students an alternative dining option on Kogan Plaza sponsored by the SA and other student organizations.
Robert Chernak, senior vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, said the University would not support a student boycott.
“If issues are brought to Aramark’s attention and there is no response, then that’s an issue,” Chernak said. “From what I know, Aramark has been willing to compromise with student complaints; it is in their best interest.”
Students not satisfied with J Street dining options always have the ability to take their business elsewhere, Chernak said.
“The students have the right to do what they want to do,” Chernak said. “But the whole dining program is flexible to fit students’ needs; you have the choice of eating elsewhere.”
Josh Lasky (CCAS-U) said GW has no grounds for opposing a proposed boycott. He said that while the University receives 6 percent of every off-campus GWorld transaction, it gets no money from J Street sales. Aramark pays GW a fixed amount to operate J Street venues, he said. “These percentages would suggest that the University would support such a boycott because they wouldn’t lose any money,” Lasky said.
Chernak said he was unsure whether GW takes a cut of each Aramark sale. GWorld officials would not comment on its deal with Aramark, citing confidentiality.
Heather Williams (ESIA-G) voted against the legislation, saying it is not a student responsibility to negotiate with Aramark.
“The administration is using the SA to do their dirty work rather than address the issues themselves with Aramark,” Williams said.