Joint Session with Senate on Student Arrests

On September 20, the Faculty Council and the University Senate held their first meeting of the 2011-12 academic year as a single joint session devoted entirely to the allegations of Students and Workers in Solidarity (SWS) about subcontracted worker mistreatment against the Sodexo food service provider at Emory and the arrest of several students protesting on the Quad on April 25, 2011. Representatives from Sodexo, SWS, and the Emory administra- tion each spoke, followed by a question-and-answer period with the Senate. Two representa- tives from Sodexo, Tom Mackall, Vice President for Employee and Corporate Relations, and Joe Mitchell, the district manager who oversees the Emory contract, spoke in defense of the corporation’s international human rights record and its employee relations on this campus. “We are recognized as an industry leader in creating a great place to work . . . ,” Mackall said. “Our employee retention rates are far above industry norms.”

Next to speak was Eric Bymaster, assistant vice president of finance and operations in Emory’s Campus Life division, detailing a response to SWS’s allegations and demands relating to Sodexo, including clarifications of contract employee hearing mechanisms, transportation access, and due diligence in reviewing contracted vendors’ human rights records. “We are sat- isfied with the overall comprehensive package of benefits that Sodexo provides its employees,” he added. “It’s not only competitive in the market but it’s affordable for their employees.”

Several members of SWS then presented statements. Meghan Jordan, an Emory College student, read from testimonials said to be provided by Sodexo workers on campus. She read from a testimonial she said was from Ms. Clara Greene: “ ‘I earn $10.50 an hour and have worked at Emory for four years. I have nothing to save after bills and health insurance. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for car insurance and get a tag and groceries.’ ” Jordan added, “The crux of this issue is the administration’s tendency to dehumanize the issue and instead present it as an issue of retention rates and other quantitative data.”

University President James Wagner followed with an update on the student arrests, explaining that Emory had offered to seek dismissal of the charges if the charged students would agree to honor university policy on use of facilities and grounds and not to initiate civil proceedings against the university. That offer, he said, still stands.

Following the Q&A, Faculty Council/University Senate Chair Brownfield announced the formation of an ad hoc committee to further examine and make recommendations to the Senate on whether the University should continue its contract with Sodexo.


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