Associate News Editor
Lydia Ricks is a junior at Millersville University. She has worked in catering within Millersville’s Dining Services for 15 months. Ricks first heard about Millersville’s potential outsourcing through an email newsletter from the organization Dining Heros. When she became aware of the University’s exploratory process into the option of outsourcing, she became concerned for the fate of her job, her colleagues’ livelihoods, and staff benefits such as free tuition for their children, should they choose to attend the University.
“I’m worried about not specifically me but my colleagues, they are losing their benefits, losing possible tuition reimbursement,” says Ricks. “I’m trying to do what I can as a student because I feel like hopefully the university will listen to me since I’m affected by this, but not directly and personally. I am more worried about my colleagues.”
Dining Heros began sending out emails to Millersville students on October 6, 2020 making the Marauder community aware of the potential outsourcing option being introduced to Millersville Dining. “I had no idea that it was happening because I wasn’t in the building at all this semester. I followed up with some colleagues about it who were actually still working in dining and I started talking to them about it… I was hearing bits and pieces from everybody. Then I grew more aware of it because dining heroes kind of just kept sending any dining students these emails and what their plans were,” says Ricks.
Dining Heros launched a petition that received over 1,250 signatures, claiming that the companies Millersville was exploring as potential outsource options did not align with the school’s EPPIIC values. Click here to view the petition.
Click here to view the full Dining Hero’s email archive
Comments on the petition included general statements such as “Keep it local” and included more personal statements from students and alum who were advocating for inhouse dining services to remain.
“I am a MU alum and a daughter of a current dining service worker. I know first hand how much quality and commitment the current dining services department gives to Millersville University, and it is unmatched to what any outside vendor can come bring in.” -Leah Ressel, Lancaster PA
“Laying off loyal and in-house workers is not worth the increased profit from outsourcing. We are a Millersville family – let’s keep it that way!” – Deanna Martin, Lebanon PA
“I don’t want to see people lose their jobs and their retirement, students to lose the quality food options available to them, and the university as a whole lose the sense of community that an independent dining services vendor adds to the campus.” -Fawn Davies, Elizabethtown PA
“I worked for the Anchor and in Catering. I also continued to work in dining services (Upper Deck) after I graduated. The people who I met working there made lasting impressions on me.” – Steven Neuville, Millersville PA
“I am an MU alum and a former dining hall employee. It certainly wasn’t the easiest or always the most pleasant job, but it helped me keep my head above water, taught me useful skills, and was an opportunity to engage with students I never would have before. There are a lot of unknowns with outsourcing but we cannot risk taking away the biggest employer of students – and many community members – on campus.” -Sydney Wilcoxson, Enmas PA
As Millersville University and other PSSCHE schools look into how to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic, dining has become a source of potential cost trims. On October 9th, 2020, Dr. Wubah sent an email to Millersville Students that announced the elimination of 54 positions in Dining and Conference Services. Effective November 6, 2020, 38 staff would be furloughed and 16 open positions would be left vacant.
Also included in the email on October 9, Dr. Wubah states, “In addition to tackling the immediate fiscal challenges by eliminating positions, the university has a fiduciary responsibility to look at the long term impact of our current situation. Therefore, we are participating in an exploratory request for proposals (RFP) for dining services that is being considered by six other PASSHE universities. We previously opted out of the RFP, however, our responsibility to the long-term fiscal health of our university now necessitates our participation in the exploratory process.”
As a student worker, Ricks is urging the University to consider other cost-cutting options that would leave Dining Services intact. She attended a town hall meeting that took place in November, organized by SGA President, John Smith. “I wanted to know if they were exploring other options besides just this one. It seems like they were putting a lot of emphasis on ‘yeah, this might be an option for us, we don’t know.’ But I haven’t heard of any other options,” says Ricks.
“I love the atmosphere, I like working in dining, I like working with the other chefs. I am worried about losing that,” says Ricks. “I don’t really think that a bigger company would respect how we do things and they don’t have to, they are coming in and starting a new thing, why should they?”
As a primary student advocate for Millersville Dining Services to remain in-house, Ricks has felt respected and heard by Millersville executives. “I think they did a great job holding the town hall and they were very receptive to me talking about my worries,” says Ricks. “They didn’t have to be because I’m just a student, I don’t have that much credibility behind me.”
“Our community has long benefited from the hospitality and talent of these staff and we will continue to do what we can to keep their interest and the interest of all Marauders in mind as we navigate these uncertain times,” says Dr. Wubah.
The University continues to emphasize that outsourcing is only a possibility. Millersville University has not yet committed to continuing forward with the RFP as they continue gathering information through exploration of the available options.