After months of extensions, Aramark’s contract is approved


The Oakland Post

After months of waiting, the Finance and Administration Division of the Facilities Management Department has finally received an answer on its custodial contracts: Aramark, the lowest bidder, will continue to provide the bulk of OU’s cleaning service.

Six trustees supported the five-year contract, one opposed and one abstained at the Board’s formal session on Wednesday, Oct. 22.

Trustee Richard Flynn, who abstained due to conflict of interest but said he felt compelled to give his opinion, said a common thread that has been raised throughout his six years of Board service is one of protecting the integrity and reputation of Oakland.

“We protect our reputation by always doing what is legal, what is honorable and ethical, what is fair and just for Oakland University, its employees and the community at large,” Flynn said. “And we expect everyone affiliated with Oakland University to abide by the same standard.”

Flynn said while he had nothing against Aramark personally, he was disturbed by recent investigations by the Detroit Free Press of the serious food service problems and inappropriate behavior by Aramark employees in Michigan.

“Does the university want to continue expanding its business relationship with a company that has the potential to harm the stellar reputation that took decades to nurture?” Flynn asked. “Maybe it won’t cause any harm, but do we dare take the risk? As for one, I’m not willing to take that risk.”

Trustee Ronald Robinson, the opposing vote, said this outsourcing was an issue of economic inequality as well. He spoke of a childhood friend’s father, who was a custodian for a Detroit public school, and said the man made enough to live well and support his children.

“I hope the same for Aramark custodians, but I think that their near-poverty wages will result in a more difficult economic situation for them to overcome,” he said. “Oakland University has more than just a financial responsibility to the students and to the state; they also have a social responsibility, and I don’t think moving to this outsourcing contract with these low, really near-poverty level wages really meets that social responsibility that we have.”

Chair Mark Schlussel addressed this after the contract was officially approved, saying that the administration actually negotiated further with Aramark and obtained an increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour as opposed to the previous $8.10 an hour without additional cost to Oakland.

“Frankly I want to commend those on this Board who fought so vigilantly for the employees,” he said. “It’s because of their efforts that we achieved this result.”

President’s report

The meeting also included the first presidential report, something that President George Hynd and the Board said will continue in an effort to keep the university regularly updated.

Hynd began by thanking OU for the warm welcome it has provided for him and his family.

“This has been an extraordinary transition,” Hynd said. “The proverbial metaphor of drinking from the firehose, I think, applies to this. It seems like every day there’s another firehose that I need to drink out of.”

Hynd said he has spent the past 60 days on meeting with media and government and community leaders, spreading a message of positive growth and movement. His next 30 days will be more internally focused—he is meeting with top supporters and donors, alumni leaders and others to discuss partnership opportunities and an overall strategic plan for Oakland.

“We’d like to get to the Board of Trustees by February a strategic plan that you feel you can endorse,” Hynd said.

Hynd also said that Oakland has been identified in recent surveys as having the second safest campus in the state, something that should be recognized despite the recent campus assault.

“I think it’s important to realize that on campus we work very hard… this is a safe place to be,” Hynd said, mentioning the 82 blue light stations, several hundred security cameras indoors and out, and OUPD’s visual escort service. “And we really do want to respect the fact that we have a reputation as being one of the safest campuses in Michigan.”

The next formal session will be on Monday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m., and will be the last planned session of the fall semester.