The Aramark proposal that would allow The University of Central Florida’s meal plan provider to replace all restaurants in the Student Union has stirred up controversy among the university.
READ: UCF Commitment Letter (waiting on UCF to provide) | Aramark Letter to UCF
Business owners and some students alike believe UCF’s dining options should not become a monopoly.
General Manager of Topper’s Creamery Charlene Robinson is upset about the possibility of her ice cream store closing down.
“If they come in, that means that we would have to leave if they take over and push everybody out. I hope that doesn’t happen. We’re building our company and being a part of UCF is a dream come true because you’re working with family,” Robinson said.
“If the university keeps pushing all the alumni away, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. It just seems like we’re worried about business and corporate america this and that but we’re getting away from the fundamentals that made this university great,” Kaylor stated.
Kaylor and Robinson are both upset that the students are not getting a say in the proposal.
“The students are the ones that pay the tuition and they’re the reason that we’re here so they really should have a say in this,” Robinson said.
“What happened to student rights? Students don’t know about what’s going on. I mean, this should have been brought for discussions, the students should have voted, especially in their building,” Kaylor said.
Both Topper’s and Wackadoos employ many students, a chance Robinson and Kaylor don’t believe a corporate takeover will give.
Robinson emphasized the importance of everyday interactions between Topper’s and its customers.
“Everybody should be aware of this, it shouldn’t be a select few,” Robinson said.
Many students have also expressed that they would not be happy with Aramark taking over the Union, both through emails and social media.
SGA Senator Jacob Milich sent KnightNews.com an email to voice student concerns about the proposal.
“UCF has not done its due diligence in order to determine how the student body feels about this decision. No large scale effort has been made to ask what the students think about this proposal and its possible consequences. A senior ranking member of the SGA has even been quoted as saying that ‘Students are pleased with Aramark’s food services…’ which can only be speculation because a statistically significant and representative sampling of students has not been asked. The Board of Trustees should delay this vote until the true opinion of the student body can be conclusively demonstrated,” Milich said.
Milich said that students are concerned for the food safety in the union, environmental concerns to the outside wooded area and small business operations.
“UCF is supposed to be ‘America’s Partnership University, but that shouldn’t only extend to large corporations looking to benefit from our school. We should extend that ethos to the small businesses that have been a part of our community for so long. The business owners have expressed that this deal came as a surprise and they deserve better than that from UCF,” the SGA senator said.
“Surprise” seems to be a common theme among business owners and students. Kaylor said he found out about the proposal through an article in the Orlando Sentinel.
Despite the idea that the proposal was “rushed,” KnightNews.com obtained emails between UCF and Aramark that show this deal has been in the works since June.
The emails show that UCF sent a “letter of commitment” in August and Aramark responded saying it was “in full agreement” and agreed “the terms of this agreement be kept confidential” until after notifications to current vendors had occurred.
Throughout this process, Milich said there has not been “an acceptable level of transparency from UCF administration.” He also stated that the vote seems rushed and inconvenient for students because it is held off campus and the same day as a football game.
“This proposal may be lucrative to UCF but the students should be the priority and the students should get the final say on what they want in their own student union,” Milich said.
Voting for the proposal will take place Nov. 19 at Northview.
Businesses from the union and student organizations said they will be there to speak their minds.
Check back on KnightNews.com for continued coverage of the proposal between UCF and Aramark.