Be it resolved… a resolution to end Aramark’s contract on campus

After almost a decade of student frustrations, Hamline University Student Congress passes a new resolution urging the administration to publicly announce an end to its contract with megacorporation, Aramark, the current food service provider and caterer

Jack Fischer, Reporter

During the Hamline University Student Congress (HUSC) General Assembly held on Sept. 29, a coalition of students passed a sweeping resolution in rebuke to the current Hamline University administration, urging them to end ties with Aramark, the university’s food service provider. 

“Students should know that by us, and Hamline as an institution, continuing to contract with [Aramark], we’re supporting and contributing to the prison industrial complex,” senior Maggie Bruns said. Bruns was one of the authors for the resolution.
The prison industrial complex is defined as a “term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems. The complex is not just prisons themselves, it is a mutually reinforcing web of relationships, between prisons, probation services, the police, the courts, all the companies that profit from transporting, feeding and exploiting prisoners, and so forth,” according to Empty Cages Collective, a community reform committee. 

Aramark provides food and labor in prisons which therefore makes Aramark a large contributor to the prison industrial complex. Since Hamline has a contract with Aramark, and students purchase these meal plans, this complex is then being upheld through campus, even if indirectly. 

The HUSC resolution comes in response to this as well as to the numerous negative reports of how Aramark has treated those in the prisons they provide for. In January of 2020, Mother Jones reported that 8 current and former residents of Santa Rita Jail in California are suing Aramark, claiming that they were forced to work for and prepare food under the supervision of the company, without receiving any compensation — what some would call modern day slavery. This is just one of many examples. 

The HUSC resolution calls for the university to appoint a “Food Service Task Force” by the end of the 2020-21 academic year and to publicly announce its intentions to not renew their contract with Aramark. The current catering contract is not due to expire until 2024, making that theoretically the earliest the university could divest its support for the company. 

Bruns acknowledges that although she is one of the students invested in this change, as a senior this year she will not be able to reap the benefits of getting a new caterer. 

“[This is] so much bigger than Hamline, and whatever I can do to contribute to that change,” Bruns said. “I care about issues of racism and criminal justice reform, and so what can I do to make sure that I’m living those values as a student right now.”

As written in the resolution passed by HUSC, “Hamline[‘s] administration was made aware of Aramark’s practices as far back as 2013 when that year’s HUSC Executive Team disapproved of that contract.” Then, the administration was again made aware of Aramark’s practices in 2017 by a first-year seminar class that informed them. 

Hamline is not the only university facing a push to cut ties with Aramark — Yale University and the University of California-Davis have also cut ties and switched to a university-run food service provider. Other schools like the University of Arizona and Princeton University are also facing pressure from students to end their contracts with Aramark. 

The resolution passed by HUSC does not guarantee that Hamline will not re-sign with Aramark because that decision is ultimately up to the administration. 

“I’ve worked in the past few years with the administration and change is very, very slow. It’s very politicized, and things don’t necessarily have to move that slow, but they do,” Bruns said. “It has to continue on, it can’t just be this group of students this year. The next class and future classes have to do the same and continue to hold [the administration] accountable. It’s not just going to go away after this year.”