By Sean Riddell, Wayne State University NLG
Law students often feel as though they do not have the capacity to make a change in their communities. We feel as if the problems are too large, our voice is too quiet, or our free time is too rare. For those reasons, we talk ourselves out of stepping out of our comfort zone and responding to problems in our community.
Sometimes, however, we’re presented with an opportunity to really make a change. A few years ago, Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit contracted with Aramark, an avowedly anti-worker corporation, to provide foodservices. In addition, Michigan Gov. Snyder contracted with Aramark to privatize prison foodservice and break the union. Last year, it came out that Aramark had been, among other things, providing spoiled food to the people in prisons.
The WSU NLG chapter was unhappy with this, so we decided to do something about it. Starting two years ago, the WSU NLG undermined the contract by purchasing food for events from outside restaurants. Today, not only do the public interest organizations boycott Aramark—everyone from Moot Court to the Admissions Office tries to dodge the contract requirements! Last year, FOIA’d the school for the contract and learned that the contract permits the Board of Governors to vote not to renew the contract by April 1 without being held liable for breach, so that became our goal.
This year, we have organized a broad coalition of students to wage a large campaign, gathering petition signatures to bring to the Board of Governors to show that the contract with Aramark does not represent the values of the Wayne community.
It is not easy. There aren’t enough of us. Too many people are ambivalent. And we expect most of the Board members will be just fine with the status quo.
But we keep on pushing. It is our duty to force the Board to hold its foodservice program to a higher ethical standard, especially when those burdened by Aramark are rarely able to fight back safely. It’s even more imperative that we push for change when there are many hands available to make light work. By the end of this school year, the Wayne State University Board of Governors will also want to hold itself to a higher standard. We, as students, can and will change things for the better.
If you are a Wayne State student, employee, alumni, or donor, or just want to ask more about the campaign, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! ■