A few weeks ago, I went to the Caf for dinner with some friends. The man who swiped my card that day made a joke and said, “For an extra $8 you can have the ribs.” I promptly laughed at this absurd statement, considering my meal swipe is supposed to give me access to everything inside the dining hall. However, to my disbelief, as I walked in, I saw a station where staff were taking receipts as proof of purchase for the $8 ribs. Now, one might expect if ribs are going to be charged extra in addition to a meal swipe, that they would be large, meat-filled, and flavorful racks that could’ve came from a barbecue restaurant. This was not the case.
The way food is handled here at the College of William and Mary is interesting. We have fantastic dining services staff here, but for some reason, the food is lackluster. I have talked to many people about the food here, including professors, and everyone agrees that it’s not great. The faculty, if they have a catered event or meeting with food, are legally bound to have it catered by Sodexo. All of our food here is managed by Sodexo, whether it be the convenience stores (in the Caf or in Sadler), or the dining dollars they so graciously allow us to use at off-campus locations.
From what I’ve heard, our campus is locked into a contract with Sodexo for a certain number of years, at which point the College will either renew the contract or provide food for us through another vendor. Essentially, I am confused as to why we are using a third party as a conduit for our food. It’s clearly not working, I don’t enjoy it and my friends don’t enjoy it either. I have so much faith in our dining staff to cook us more personal meals, recipes they know and love and not ones that are regulated by Sodexo. If I go to the omelet station at Sadler, I know that I’m about to have a great meal. Miss Regina cooks the best omelets I’ve ever had, and I attribute that to her wonderful ability to cook. So why do we have Sodexo? I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard, “Sadler sucks today, let’s go to Caf …” only to hear at the following meal, “Man, Caf wasn’t that great either.” I hear all the time from my friends at Virginia Tech about how amazing their food is, and how they gained their freshman 15 in their first semester alone. Meanwhile, I lost 15 pounds before winter break and Sadler is on its third day in a row serving some sort of pork dish at every station but the vegan station. Our food needs to change. On the bright side, it is starting to. The Caf has been introducing new, healthier meals, which are widely appreciated.
What I saw at the Caf that day were 10 tiny clumps of cold, almost meatless bones. As I walked out, I looked at the ribs station to see not a single soul lined up for them. I wonder why.
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The answer is simple and the same answer to why W&M contracts the campus bookstore to Barnes and Noble. It allows the college via the contractor to engage in unrelated business activities, which under non-profit law should be taxed. However, since it is the contractor and not the college engaging in unrelated business activities, the college can still profit off that revenue tax-free since they “do not know” the details of what the contractor is engaged in. As long as these contractors continue to generate these revenue streams that the college would not otherwise be able to engage in, the college will retain the contracts.
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