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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Both Carleton and Sodexho to blame for the cuisine

<bility is always, a tricky issue. We are taught to judge responsibility, and moreover, to evaluate the degree to which people are liable for their own actions. Our entire civil judicial system is based around these very same principles. Why then do we have trouble sorting out the simple question: who’s to blame? It is difficult to assign blame to individuals not because people find it difficult to hold one another accountable, but because oftentimes the person who is to blame is hidden from the public eye. This is the case at Carleton, as well. In light of the dining service problems, this has become clearly evident.

The question we have to ask is simple, yet it also has many different levels. Who is to blame for our current dining situation? Sodexho manages the food; therefore the company deserves to be blamed. But unfortunately this answer is not completely accurate.

Looking ahead, who is ultimately going to be held accountable for the poor food in our dining halls? Should Sodexho be voted out of Carleton College, whose standard of living is going to change? The lowest tier of a multi-billion dollar enterprise is going to be affected. The cooks, the bakers, the clean-up crews are going to lose their jobs. Maybe the chefs and the managers here will even lose their jobs, as well. But the people truly responsible for the food in our dining halls will be affected less than Mount Rushmore is affected by the wind.

Last week, after seeing the 2008 Princeton Review best and worst campus food lists, I decided to inquire into the dining management services these schools used. Of the 20 schools on the Best Campus Food list, I was able to contact 18. Three were run by Sodexho—two of these were in the top 10 positions on the list. Bon Appetit serviced five schools, while nine others used their own management to oversee the dining halls.

On the list of worst campus food, I was surprised to see both Bon Appetit and Sodexho once again on the list. Bon Appetit managed only one school of 20 on the list, Sodexho managed eight. It should also be noted that only one of the schools on the list used their own service.

Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but Carleton, nonetheless, did a great disservice to its students when it stopped managing its own dining halls in 1974. Presently, we are told it is unfeasible to switch back to the college controlling its own dining halls, so we must make the best of what we have. That means it is Carleton College’s responsibility to get the best out of the management service provider that they use. The administration has obviously not done this adequately, and students are paying the price for this.

The information clearly tells us that Sodexho does have the ability to put quality food on student’s plates. It is an enormous company with thousands of employees and billions of customers. The company falls victim to the vice known as the profit margin, and it compromises quality in order to feed its own gluttonous hierarchy. But with the right pressure, school administrations do have the power to tame this beast. Carleton, if it wanted to, could force Sodexho to provide us with some of the best food found on college campuses in the nation. The school however has not taken up this challenge.

For me, it is obvious that blame rests with both Sodexho and Carleton’s administration. Sodexho fully deserves to be booted from our campus, but it is unfortunate that when the dining contracts are released, if this should happen, the people who had no power to control the situation will take the fall. The administration will tout the fact that they addressed student’s concerns, and everybody will be happy. In an ideal world, somebody would step forward and admit that they did a bad job, made a mistake, or even that they were to blame for the food in our dining halls. In the real world, however, those who call the shots stand safely behind a smokescreen of lower ranking officials. Both Sodexho and the Carleton administration made mistakes; somebody should manup and take responsibility for them. I certainly would like to see heads roll, but I’d prefer them to be heads that actually deserve the blame, not just ones that did their job as they were told.

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