Scripps College’s contract with Sodexo, a food services company that operates prisons in other countries, is set to expire in 2020, and students have been putting pressure on the administration to not renew its contract.
More than 40 students protested the school’s involvement with the French multinational company outside Malott Dining Hall March 8 at a rally hosted by Drop Sodexo, a campaign to end Scripps’ contract with the company. A petition with more than 1,000 signatures was also delivered to Scripps President Lara Tiedens during the rally.
Tiedens seemed receptive to students’ complaints.
She said via email that students’ concerns over the past few years are in part responsible for the creation of a Dining Services Advisory Committee, which will be composed of students, faculty and staff.
“I know that the Sodexo contract is a topic about which there are some strongly held views in the Scripps community,” she said. “I encourage our students, and the Scripps community, to be informed consumers and I welcome information sharing about corporations’ practices, histories and structures.”
This summer, Scripps will request and consider proposals from a number of food service companies, Tiedens said.
“The college will evaluate the proposals based on a range of criteria, including cost, food quality and alignment with Scripps values, among others,” she said.
The new committee will provide input on the options, but the final decision will be made by Tiedens.
Friday’s rally was organized by Griffin Cloud PZ ’19, Sophie Peters SC ’20 and Alex Hammond SC ’19, who began by giving individual statements condemning the administration for investing in a catering company that perpetuates labor rights abuses, low wages and poor working conditions.
“The Sodexo campaign has met with the Scripps president countless times to voice our concerns about Sodexo operating on our campus, and time and time again the administration has tried to shut us down with arguments of ‘now is not the time,’” Hammond said. “But to that we say, ‘now is the time.’ Sodexo management has gone on for far too long and the time has come for sustainable and ethical practices in our dining hall.”
Student dissatisfaction with Sodexo isn’t new, as the company has been the food provider for Scripps since 2000.
Cloud, Peters and Hammond all got involved with Drop Sodexo in spring 2017 and helped organize a lunchtime boycott of Malott two years ago.
“A lot of times the message is misconstrued as us fighting the college, but [we oppose Sodexo] because we love this place, and we want this to be the best institution that it can be,” Alicia Goode SC ‘19 said.
Drop Sodexo is also demanding that Scripps not contract with Aramark, a company that provides food to prisons and has been linked to sexual harassment, drug trafficking and prisoner abuse, according to PBS.
“We must continue pushing Scripps and the other 5Cs to choose humanity over profit, protect our workers and vulnerable students, support environmental justice and completely divest from the prison industrial complex,” Peters said.
Nancy Neiman, a food politics professor at Scripps, spoke at the rally about the hypocrisy of contracting with Sodexo.
“Many of us [at Scripps] teach on labor rights, we teach about racial justice and we teach about the Prison Industrial Complex,” she said. “We literally market ourselves on the basis of being a just institution … which is why it’s really important that we put our money where our mouth is.”
Emma Li SC ’21, Mackenzie Rutherford SC ’21 and Jo Choe PO ’21, representatives from the 5C Prison Abolition Collective also talked at the event, highlighting Pomona College’s decision to terminate its Sodexo contract in 2011.
Drop Sodexo’s organizers urged Scripps to move to manage its dining services itself, as Pomona does, rather than contracting with a dining services company.
“We’ve talked to Pomona and learned about their in-house management system and how it’s better for the workers, better for the community and better for the school as a whole financially.” Peters said.
Although they’re currently focusing on Scripps, organizers from Drop Sodexo and 5C Prison Abolition Collective said they hope to convince Harvey Mudd College to withdraw from its Sodexo contract next.