Food For Thought, the student-run cafe located in the basement of Smith Memorial Student Union, is seeking compensation for approximately $10,000 in lost revenue over the summer when they were unable to stay open after it had been understood that they would. Students had been promised jobs that could no longer be filled, and the sustainable student eatery lost money in the form of perishable food and sales.
The money issue can be relayed as a breakdown of communication, where Food For Thought managers assumed priority of the space while school officials assumed that the priority ended with the regular academic year. When Food For Thought first announced their intention to stay open for the summer, Student Activities and Leadership Programs, the office that oversees student groups, erroneously informed them that the space was open.
After hiring employees and ordering food, the school told them that their rooms were going to be used for a day camp during key business hours. This forced them to close down for some weeks early in the summer, and they reopened later in the summer for unprofitable afternoon hours, mainly for the sake of their employees.
“It wasn’t just money we were thinking about – it was people,” said Dimitris Desyllas, Food For Thought employee. He also said that he knew at least two people who had to find new housing when they lost their summer jobs guaranteed by the student group.
Food For Thought representatives met Tuesday with administrators from Auxiliary Services and SALP, seeking a share in the financial burden of the money lost over the summer. Auxiliary Services, which controls event bookings in SMSU, booked the space without consulting the student group, which had planned to remain open throughout the summer. In an attempt to fulfill the obligations held to their employees who were promised jobs, Food For Thought stayed open in the afternoon and lost money all summer.
Food For Thought has a contract with Smith Memorial Student Union that is unique to the student group and the space they use, and states “Food For Thought may operate during the summer. If closed during the summer, then scheduling of summer operation will be subject to SMSU scheduling guidelines and priorities.”
Members of Food For Thought felt that the contract gave them year-round priority of the space.
“Ultimately, Food For Thought is responsible for making business decisions to stay open,” said John Eckman, associate director of Auxiliary Services, who was responsible for communication with the students at the cafe.
“We’re definitely owning all of the responsibility right now,” said Aubrey Lindstrom, a Food For Thought board member. They are mainly attempting to get Auxiliary Services and SALP to own up to their mistakes and share the financial burden, she said.
Tonantzin Oceguera, director of student activities at SALP, offered funds to give Food For Thought an outdoor cart out of the equipment reserve budget. Auxiliary Services offered written support for their case but would not commit anything monetary.
This issue is set to be resolved this year, but no strong commitments toward resolving it have been made. Food For Thought was zero-funded by the Student Fee Committee last week, which required them to rework their budget and return with a new one. The monetary loss from last summer is affecting their ability to continue with planned community projects, as their budget is not currently running a surplus.