Incarceration to Education Coalition members have been crowding the lobby of Elmer Holmes Bobst Library since 8 a.m. on Monday. This is the second night that students have slept in Bobst, protesting the two finalists — Aramark and Compass Group — in the bidding process for the university’s dining contract because of their connections to the prison industry.
The IEC’s protest comes after the university initiated a bidding process — in the middle of Aramark’s 10-year contract — for a new dining contract after the company faced scrutiny for Lipton Dining Hall’s poor health inspection rating last year and again for a racially insensitive meal served at Downstein during Black History Month.
Compass Group and Aramark plan to present their bids to a review committee on Dec. 14. This committee has four members selected by the Student Government Assembly, which includes IEC organizer and Senator-at-Large and CAS Senior Amanda Lawson and Alternate Senator-at-Large and Gallatin Junior Jakiyah Bradley.
Suitcases, comforters, pillows and plenty of food was sprawled out over the floor as students sustained themselves for the past two days. IEC organizer and CAS senior Matthew Perry said that the IEC will not leave Bobst until the university meets their demands, which include a written guarantee that the university will look into becoming an independent food service provider after the next dining contract expires in five years. The IEC also requests that the university forms a new committee that would oversee NYU’s transition to self-providing their dining services.
“Our second demand is that a committee be created so that the IEC has a permanent, irrevocable seat on [the committee] that supervises that shift to self-provision and to make sure it’s done on time, so that it’s not used like a stalling tactic and it’s done in a way that guarantees that all of the current dining hall employees will have the option to stay,” Perry said.
In a statement to WSN, university Spokesperson John Beckman said that the IEC’s sit-in will not affect the current bidding process.
“As the protesters are well aware, there is a process that has been underway for some months to choose a vendor for dining operations,” Beckman said. “Notwithstanding today’s event, that process will continue to move forward according to the established procedures.”
IEC organizer and Gallatin sophomore Mouli Ghosh thinks that the administration isn’t interested in exploring the idea of the university becoming an independent food service provider.
“I think there is a facade of wanting to have a dialogue with us, but at their core, they’re not very willing to consider it,” Ghosh said.
The IEC also says the administration has not formally threatened members at the sit-in with disciplinary action. In April, the administration called the parents of students in the Student Labor Action Movement and Divest to threaten disciplinary action after a 36-hour sit-in at the Kimmel Center for University Life.
According to the IEC, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Marc Wais has promised to meet with the organization. In an email to the IEC, Wais said that he believed the IEC only wanted the administration to agree to their demands.
“Your letter to me suggests that your concerns have less to do with the process involved — such as an unwillingness to meet (there have been previous meetings), or a lack of opportunity for the IEC to express its point of view or participate in the process [Lawson is a member on the review committee] — and more to do with us declining to say ‘yes’ to all that you have asked for,” Wais wrote.
Wais went on to state in his email that affordability was also a priority in the bidding process because NYU dining serves around three million meals a year, and if the university were to independently provide its dining services, costs would increase by at least 20 percent.
Despite an IEC member having a seat on the committee that will hear the bidders’ presentations, the IEC maintains that such representation is not sufficient.
“That committee’s task is to decide between two companies that have submitted bids for this year’s dining contract,” Perry said. “We want a committee that is already operating on the premise that we will shift to self-provided. It’s not even about this dining cycle, it’s about the next one.”
Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected]