Omaha, Neb.—Last week, University of Nebraska Omaha and Sodexo officials clarified the sweeping changes to dining on campus and responded to questions and concerns from staff and students.
In the plan proposed by Mike Fleming, director of business development at Sodexo, chains including Qdoba, Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop and Chick-fil-A will join Sodexo restaurant concepts within the Milo Bail food court.
Durango’s Grill reopened on March 6 after closing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grill serves burgers, fries and wings with plans to host pop-up food options in the space.
“All we’re trying to do is really provide a baseline level of service this semester,” said Jim Kamm, assistant vice chancellor for business and finance. “I think it’s important to know where we’ve been and to know where we’re going.”
Proposed fast service options outside of the Milo Bail Student Center include a full-line Starbucks to replace the Library Café inside Criss Library.
UNO and Sodexo plan for Starbucks to occupy a more central location within the library, allowing students riding the shuttles to quickly pick up a pink drink, latte or breakfast sandwich.
College chain Shake Smart will offer protein shakes and acai bowls within the Health and Kinesiology building.
The Maverick Den will offer new grab-and-go options, and a ghost kitchen will replace the current Krispy Krunchy Chicken. The convenience store and Hardy Coffee are expected to remain.
Like numerous college campuses across the nation, many members of the UNO community showed up to question the impact of bringing a Chick-fil-A onto Dodge campus.
“I have concerns about my fees as a student going towards bringing Chick-fil-A onto our campus when that is an organization that directly affects me and directly spreads harmful rhetoric about me,” said queer student Paige Michaud.
UNO Business and Finance said in a statement that student fees will not directly support Sodexo or any individual vendors.
The Nebraska Board of Regents approved the partnership with Sodexo, a major food services and facilities management company, in December after a confidential bidding process.
“By removing or changing anything, we would probably have to renegotiate or enter into a new contract or an addendum,” said Carol Kirchner, vice chancellor for business and finance.
Over 150 staff and faculty members signed a letter opposing Chick-fil-A on campus which was sent to Chancellor Joanne Li and Kirchner in early February.
Business Librarian Isabel Soto-Luna is one of those names. Soto-Luna, chair of the library diversity, equity, access and inclusion committee questioned the merit of Sodexo working with a business (Chick-fil-A) that discriminates while Sodexo promotes DEI awards the company has won.
Sodexo is a recipient of the 2022-2023 Business Equality Excellence Award which Business Equality Magazine says, “recognizes organizations fostering economic stability in the LGBTQ+ community.”
“We’re going to make sure that our employees are inclusive and taking care of our customers on a day-to-day basis,” said Fleming. “They’re not Chick-fil-A employees, they’re Sodexo employees. They’re trained in Sodexo ways as well.”
Some alumni expressed their frustrations and plans to discontinue their donations to the university.
“They’re gonna come in here, and they’re gonna be like, yeah, I’m good,” said Maritza Estrada about incoming freshman classes. Estrada, a former UNO student and teacher, expressed concern for students coming into spaces where they may feel excluded.
Chick-fil-A has been operating in Nebraska Union since 2019 and initially faced similar public critiques of the restaurant’s values.
“We’re going to continue to talk about this and try and do right by this campus in the best way we can given the circumstances,” said Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Cathy Pettid. “This is an incredibly special place, and we want that to continue.”
The question-and-answer session also discussed sustainability, scholarships for university staff and summer employment for international students.
Pettid encouraged the crowd and members of the community not present in the audience to reach out with their thoughts and questions to email@example.com.
The Gateway always wants to hear your voice and requests a copy of any relevant letter sent to UNO Food Services also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible publishing in the future.
This article was updated on the date of publishing, March 27, 2023, to include a request for community outreach to The Gateway.