Over the summer, faculty and staff stopped receiving the 20 percent discount at cafeteria locations on campus, including the faculty lunch buffet. Though the discount was reinstated on Aug. 28, it will be eliminated on Sep. 28.
The discount was reinstated because it was originally eliminated without prior notice. Faculty and staff were taken aback, so Vice President of Business and Finance Charlie Cross sent an email on Aug. 28 apologizing for the lack of communication.
Several administrators reported not receiving Cross’s Aug. 28 reinstatement email, while others in their offices did. The Office of Marketing and Communications confirmed that the email was only sent to faculty and staff members with positive balances in their Don Dollars account. On Sept. 10, Cross sent the same email to the rest of faculty and staff.
“All departments, schools and divisions have been asked to make significant budget cuts over the past year, and as we have reviewed the increased cost of labor and goods in our food service operations, the current discount is no longer sustainable,” Cross’s email said. “In order to adequately compensate our food service workers and provide a quality level of goods and service, we need to ask every member of our community to pay what we charge our students and outside guests.”
Cross included that the 20 percent discount cost the University an “excess of $60,000 per year.” He declined an interview for this article. “The message should be self explanatory,” Cross replied when asked to speak to the Foghorn on the subject.
Jeff Hamrick, vice provost of institutional budget, planning and analytics, outlined the details of the University’s budget cuts. “As we formed the fiscal 2019 draft operating budget [in spring 2018], there was a $10.7 million projected deficit,” Hamrick said. His office allocated cuts to different areas of the University, including Cross’s Division of Business and Finance.
Hamrick mentioned a number of reasons for the deficit, including increased competition from international universities and rising costs. “I hear people’s dismay. And I recognize it. But we need people to belt-tighten,” Hamrick said.
Some of those affected expressed anger and frustration about the loss of the discount and Cross’s lack of communication. “It’s not just the money, it’s the message it sends –– that we’re not worthy of the 20 percent,” one senior program assistant said, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to previous instances of backlash for their opinions on administrative decisions.
“To make a decision that directly affects your community’s lives and not tell people about it, and to really only tell people about it because you got caught… that’s just really disappointing,” Sydney West said, who coordinates schedules in the School of Nursing. Her primary role is to secure classroom space for undergraduate and graduate programs.
West said she usually eats at the UC cafeteria two times a week, but will no longer be going. “I’ve personally decided to not buy anything from the cafeteria because of this announcement,” she said. “It’s the nail in the coffin to not eat there anymore.”
In total, four faculty and staff members the Foghorn spoke with said they would no longer give business to the cafeteria. One said they would only now go in an emergency.
All four program assistants interviewed for this article said they felt disproportionately affected by the loss of the discount because of what they described as wages that don’t keep up with the cost of living.
“You’re talking about a group of people that the majority are living paycheck to paycheck,” said a program assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “This doesn’t help.”