The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

Piper grill reopens with RFP underway

Logan McGaheran

Tensions grew between the Hamline student body and Hamline’s contracted dining service provider Aramark this past fall, as Hamline students’ personal and moral frustrations with the company came to light. Now with the request for proposal (RFP) process underway, students may see changes by next fall.

After Hamline University’s Student Congress (HUSC) unanimously passed a resolution on Sept. 19, calling on the university to find a new dining service provider, Dean of Students Patti Klein-Kersten started the initial steps of an RFP process, a process which alerts food service vendors that Hamline is accepting contract proposals. With the RFP process officially in progress, a team has been assembled to consider both the students and the university’s needs in selecting a new contract. The selection committee is made up of students Hafsa Ahmed and Oliver Engstrom, faculty member Patti Born Selly and staff members Kelly Rudney, Jen Olsen Krengel, Ken Dehkes. The committee is co-chaired by Klein-Kersten and Athletic Director Alex Focke.

In September, students were given space to share their personal experiences with dining at Hamline. In a series of Food Advisory Committee meetings led by Yolanda Hansen and Nick Ortega, Director of Residential Life and Director of Dining Services, respectively, students came prepared with many shared and some unique frustrations they encountered in their experiences dining at Hamline. The meetings gave direction to Nick Ortega for specific changes to be implemented to make dining more accessible and inclusive, leading to the reopening of the Piper Grill this semester.

“Our goal was always to reopen Piper Grill,” Ortega wrote in an email. “It has been one of my top goals since the day I moved into the director’s role. I’m happy that we are able to have it open to help enhance the late night options we have on campus.”

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For some students, the increase in accessibility and inclusivity is positive, but the timing of reopening in relation to the upcoming RFP committee decisions makes the motivations questionable.

“It’s certainly a good thing that it’s open for food access on campus, it’s better to have it than not have it, but it absolutely is something where they’re choosing now as an opportune time, given the pressure and, you know, threats against the contract that they currently have,” Matthew Maroney said.

Maroney is a member of Feed Your Brain (FYB) a student organization that advocates for food equity on campus. During fall semester, FYB became active objectors to Aramark, including holding a protest in November outside of Anderson Center where dining services is housed, specifically citing Aramark’s In2Work program as the basis of the protest. AJ Escalante, also of FYB, shared similar thoughts about the timing of the Piper Grill’s reopening.

“It seems almost performative, especially given the context of [Hamline’s] already in the middle of getting proposals for food service providers,” Escalante said.

Though both Escalante and Maroney applied to be a part of the selection committee, neither was selected to be student representatives.

“We do want to make sure that … people with non-student considerations being a part of this process don’t forget who they’re doing it for, and that they do remember that they’re doing this to serve a community and not just for the financials,” Escalante said.

The committee will meet on April 25 and 26 to hear presentations from potential contractors and ask questions before sending a recommendation to President Murray.

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