Last week, I wrote an article on campus catering options and specifically asked for clarity on rules regarding that. To get a better understanding of how it works, I talked to Barbara Patterson, the director for student involvement and leadership.
“If you fill out a space reservation form and select the option that says you will have food for your event, you are automatically directed to fill out a catering request through the campus caterers,” she said.
The university facility reservation policy Section 8 states that “all food service requirements are to be obtained directly from the university food service contractor on campus.”
When I asked her if student organizations were informed regarding this, she said that they are made aware of the policy rules when club presidents meet.
“Sodexo isn’t worried about someone bringing a box of doughnuts during a club meeting,” Patterson said.
“The other reason is a safety issue.
“Food processed by others could be unhealthy or tampered with, and since they are the experts on campus, they have been provided with the responsibility to address that,” she said.
When I attempted to get a statement from representatives of Sodexo, I was told that my request to talk to them had to be approved before they could do so.
In retrospect, I feel that while there are valid reasons for such a rule to exist, they still need to be reviewed specifically on how their services apply to student clubs. For large-scale events, such a rule can be justified, but it has its flaws when relating to small student organizations that cater to 50 students at most.
If safety is the primary concern for outside vendors, the university should set safety standards. If the said vendors meet them, then the students could buy food from them without going through a tedious process of getting their requests approved.
More specifically, we need clarity on what can and cannot be done by student organizations while catering to members. If having snacks is not an issue, they should be clearly informed on that. If it is, we need to have an explanation as to why.
There should also be a clear distinction on what qualifies as an exception and what doesn’t.
The problem, it seems, is that while some events cater to hundreds of people, some clubs have events involving only 20 or 30. Catering for them is ordering a few pizzas or preparing snacks right then and there.
These clubs shouldn’t be held to the same catering rules as those that apply to larger events, as there is a clear distinction between those events.
I applaud the precautions taken to ensure the standards of the food served to students and encourage them to be kept in place. I feel that right now, unfortunately, these checks appear to be restrictive rather than beneficial.
Moreover, for these clubs, students should be given a free hand to decide what is the best option for them.
I feel that all this would be made simpler if there were better communication between the caterers and the student organizations so that everyone is on the same page regarding campus catering rules.