URSU loses out on tender race
The university has once again awarded the on-campus food services contract to Chartwells/Compass Canada. Over the years, Chartwells has earned a bit of a reputation for their various slips. These include the mislabeling of foods, specifically Halal and non-Halal meats, as well as the various Riddell roach reports. Criticism has also been made in regard to a lack of healthful meal options as well as poor hours of operation – specifically for those living on campus.
In February of 2019, it looked as though change were on the horizon when the university released a tender for on-campus food services. This certainly got the attention of the university of Regina Student Union (URSU), who have heard complaints about the quality of food services at the U of R time and time again.
In the past, URSU has been denied the chance to offer potential solutions for some of these disillusionments due to the university’s existing contract with Chartwells. URSU General Manager Carl Flis and the team at URSU saw this opening as a chance to implement real change on campus.
“Why stay the status quo? Let’s see if we can offer up a viable alternative option. Our thought was even if we change to one of the other [corporations], it’d be just more of the same for another five or ten years”
URSU put forth an extensively thought-out bid, demonstrating their serious candidature and desire for change. Their proposal covers everything from a more accessible meal plan service to a greater focus on local foods.
“Our focus was to differentiate ourselves from the multinationals. Knowing that we couldn’t take over 9 or 10 operations on campus and have them all run 100% by URSU, we needed some partners and those partners would be everything from reputable national chains but also incorporating local vendors, local suppliers and partnering with local producers and focusing on fresh, local ingredients,” Flis said.
He added that an URSU-operated food services program would not be completely against the norm and that several campuses across the country are moving away from large corporations and toward sustainable self-ops.
Julian Wotherspoon, Outreach & Events Coordinator with Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) published an open letter to the university President, Student Services, and Supply Management expressing RPIRG’s discontent with the decision to renew Chartwells contract.
Wotherspoon expressed confidence in URSU’s proposal when reached for comment. “What URSU’s bid represented was a way of doing food service that put student experiences and well-being over profit in a sustainable way. It’s extremely disappointing that the university has chosen to maintain status quo when other sustainable options were on the table.”
This spring, a letter was received by URSU, stating that Chartwells had been granted the spot. Flis admited, “It was very disheartening when we got the news, knowing all of the issues that they’ve had with Chartwells over the years. We were pretty confident in the quality of our submission that we would at least be considered as a finalist”.
“From the time of our submission until the time we got this letter we received zero interaction from the university. We thought that our submission really aligned with what the university claims its mission is and that the commitment is that students come first, but really, to make no change just seems to be a slap in the face to students.”
Due to ongoing negotiations with the Chartwells contract, Student Services were not able to offer insight into the selection process. Bettina Welsh, Director of Student Affairs Operations stated, “As final negotiations are ongoing and no contract has yet been signed, the university is not in a position to provide more information at this time, other than to say every tender issued by the university involves a rigorous and thorough selection process based on a number of factors including; cost, quality and value for the money.”
She has assured the campus community that administration will be in a position to communicate upon the contract’s finalization.