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The Daily Tar Heel

Op-ed: Aramark, associated with Carolina Dining Services, undermines what UNC stands for


It’s a beautiful day on the quad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This public ivy stands on the grounds of diversity, inclusion and excellence.

Considering those principles, it’s surprising that UNC chose to outsource their dining services to the corporation Aramark in the early 2000s after students expressed their unhappiness with the quality of food served in the dining halls. As a school that claims to hold diversity and inclusivity among students and staff, how can it confidently maintain a contract with Aramark? 

This company recently served students at NYU a special meal to celebrate Black History Month which boasted red Kool-Aid, watermelon infused water, collard greens and ribs. The perpetuation and normalization of racist stereotyping by Aramark corporation was uncalled for, inappropriate, but not entirely shocking, as they have a long list of missteps that persist today.

In a list ranking of the top ten companies who pay workers the least, Aramark came in sixth place with a revenue of $14.7 billion, CEO compensation $32.4 million and the average cashier’s hourly wage reaching a mere $9 per hour. Additionally, a former kitchen employee filed a lawsuit against Aramark for sexual harassment during her time working for an Ohio correctional institution. 

The wrongdoings of Aramark, which are not isolated events, reflect the institutions which work with and thus provide revenue to Aramark, such as UNC. As a school whose mission statement addresses the institution’s aim to enhance the quality of life for individuals throughout North Carolina, we are incredibly misguided in contracting our dining services out to a company who does not even provide a livable wage to their employees at this University. 

In an empirical examination of outsourcing in public schools across multiple states, including North Carolina, university presidents and vice presidents said they consider the option of on outsourcing as a means to improve services and quality of university services. The most popular reasons for contracting out services, specifically food services, is because outsourcing allows universities to focus on other issues, but the opposite is occurring at UNC because the corporation Aramark is damaging the University and its reputation.

Furthermore, universities evaluate their needs when outsourcing to different companies while still considering how the design and implementation of outsourced services vary. As the oldest public university in the nation, UNC faculty and students often concern themselves with equality and integrity of the operations within the University. The outsourcing on college campuses is unique to the environment of the University itself, thus showing that college students and administration have the ability to influence the operations of the outsourced dining operations of Aramark.

Through increasing the campus concern to the University’s administrative body surrounding the practices of Aramark corporation on UNC’s campus, the University administration can force the hand of Aramark into complying to remain in business with the University. Better yet, the University also has the option to outsource to a company that reflects the values and integrity of this University, or end their contract to outsource dining services altogether and hire all of the current contracted (non-managerial) workers in-house who are the backbone of our dining halls. This would allow the University to pay a living wage to the dining workers who absolutely deserve higher pay, and distance UNC from a corporation who undermines all that this University stands for.

McKenna Urbanski 


Contemporary European Studies 

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