Members of the Ithaca College administration proposed policy revisions, restricting and specifying appropriate usage of catering and entertainment funds for meetings and events.
At the Feb. 22 Student Government Association meeting, Marc Israel, assistant provost of finance and administrative operations and Meals and Entertainment Task Force member; Brad Buchanan, assistant director of recreational sports and Institutional Effectiveness and Budget Committee member; and Scott Erickson, professor of marketing and law and IEBC member, sought feedback for their proposed revisions to the Meals and Entertainment Policy.
The policy provides guidelines for the expenditure of college funds for “non-travel meals” — business meals and guest meals — and “other events” — receptions for retirement, student recognition ceremonies, receptions for employee key life events and farewell receptions, and training and instruction for faculty and staff. Student organizations and other student programming efforts are exempt from the policy.
At the SGA meeting, the Task Force and IEBC representatives emphasized three of the seven proposed policy revisions: Employees must have a minimum of five years of service to the college in order to have a college-funded farewell or retirement reception; alcohol cannot be served at business meals or farewell receptions; and college funds for meals and entertainment on campus must be spent only through the college’s two food services providers, Campus Center and Events Services and Dining Services by Sodexo.
Gerald Hector, vice president of finance and administration and co-chair of the IEBC, said despite several campus community members’ impression that the policy is new, the policy has been in effect for many years.
He said the need for the policy revisions was because of challenges in the policy’s enforcement. For example, according to the policy, if a meeting lasts longer than three hours, it must be catered by the college’s catering services. Hector said faculty and administrative members would schedule meetings that lasted over three hours during the noon hour, which according to the policy, allows them to bring lunches from outside food sources.
Hector said the policy reform can help maintain low tuition rates. The meals and entertainment budget for the 2016–17 academic year, $2.6 million, excluding travel meals, is the average of the previous three years’ expenses. Hector said he hopes to reduce this with the policy revisions.
“If we’re dealing with affordability and effectiveness of the institution, so that we can turn back to our students the savings and lower the cost of tuition, those ordering too much food — that has a cost, and every time, that’s money being spent. We can’t capture it and return it to the students,” Hector said. “That’s the discussion, and that’s the dialogue we need to have.”
At the SGA meeting, Israel said the changes offer new clarity for the policy as well as financial benefits for the college by funding going to the college’s catering services.
“We ask this to keep the money internal to the college,” Israel said. “When we use Sodexo, that comes back to the college. All those substations and things, those are college revenue. They don’t go to Sodexo. They go to us.”
In an effort to solicit feedback about the policy from the campus community, representatives of the Task Force and the IEBC met with the Staff Council on Feb. 18 and the SGA on Feb. 22. The IEBC and Task Force members said they plan to meet with the Faculty Council on March 1, conduct campuswide discussion sessions in Clark Lounge on March 3 and conduct a campuswide survey. The survey will close March 18.
SGA President Dominick Recckio said he views the Task Force’s meeting with the three constituencies as the first effort of a system of shared governance for the college.
“Instead of Gerald just going through and changing the policy himself — which he could; he’s a vice president — but shared governance is ‘No, I want the community members to look at this policy, come up with the best possible solution and bring it forward,’” Recckio said.
Hector said the Task Force will refine the policy over the spring and summer months, using feedback from the meetings with the constituencies and the online survey. He said he hopes to have the policy reissued with its revisions by the start of the 2016–17 academic year.