A Response to Nate Boswell and ResEd

Feb. 27, 2013, 2:11 a.m.

Note: To view Boswell’s original statement, to which this piece is a reply, click here.

Effective now, and until Suites officially remains independent, this weekly column will now be an update on the situation at Suites Dining.

Before I continue, I would like to formally apologize for some of the fliers distributed at the Save Suites protest two days ago. I’ll be very specific: I apologize for the Zac Sargeant/Nick Peters “brothers-in-crime” flier that was distributed. It was over-the-top and justifiably received negative feedback from attendees. As the de facto organizer of the event, I take full responsibility for not personally screening all the fliers beforehand to check them for appropriateness and respect. It will not happen again.

Second, a big thank-you to those of you who showed up – including ResEd Associate Dean Nate Boswell, who courageously stepped up and took a lot of flak from an angry crowd (and from me marching around with a megaphone). That takes a certain willingness to engage with student discontent, and I (and others present at the protest) appreciated that very much.

Boswell’s response in yesterday’s Daily, unfortunately, provided few additional answers to students’ questions, and the answers we did get were misleading. I’d like to respectfully set the record straight.

First, Mr. Boswell claimed that Suites is “more expensive by $600-per-student-per-year than what students in most residences pay for board.” That claim is misleading because it compares apples to oranges; the cheaper residences to which Boswell referred are conventional freshman-style dorms, which have always been cheaper but do not afford their residents the autonomy, managerial experience and living environment that are the reasons Stanford developed independent living in the first place. Suites board bill costs are actually, as I pointed out in my original article, nearly identical to those of other similarly independent student-run houses on campus, and we provide more food for the same price ($5,999 per student per year for 17 meals per week in Suites, $5,992 for 10 meals per week on the corporate-managed Row.)

Second, Mr. Boswell claimed that there are three lawsuits pending against Suites’ Governor’s Corner Dining Societies (GCDS) and the University. That claim is also misleading and rhetorically inflates the volume of legal actions actually ongoing; all three lawsuits were filed by the same person at the same time for the same set of reasons. And as his letter to the editor today demonstrates, that one person unequivocally opposes ResEd’s decision to use his lawsuit as leverage against Suites Dining student management.

Furthermore, eliminating any entity which has a lawsuit filed against it, regardless of the lawsuit’s merit (about which I am legally forbidden from commenting), seems to make little sense. I can talk about lawsuits against the many third-party entities that operate on this campus all day long. Why is it only Suites Dining, the long-standing student nonprofit with an otherwise clean record, to whom the “a lawsuit has been filed, therefore we’re automatically getting rid of you” standard is applied?

Third, Boswell did not mention that, as I documented in my original article, ResEd’s ostensible health and safety concerns are unsupported by the actual data.

Other than that, Boswell didn’t give me any other substantive points to refute, so I’m done defending Suites’ record – a record that doesn’t seem to need any more defending. But besides the absence of factual data to justify the Suites takeover, there’s something else missing from Boswell’s reply: an apology.

There has been no apology for regularly delaying payments to vendors for weeks, causing them to complain to Suites student managers.

There has been no apology for forgetting to pay Bollard’s water bill in September and only reimbursing Frank for paying that bill four months later, in January.

There has been no apology for delaying the reimbursement of a club manager for his stereo purchase for over a month and a half.

There has been no apology from R&DE for failing to fix the infrastructure for which they are responsible – a well-documented list of failures about which I could go into great detail (email me).

There has been no apology for failing to pay Suites hashers for over two months – many of whom, from personal experience and conversation, needed the money very much and very quickly.

There has been no apology from ResEd Assistant Director Zac Sargeant for barging into and shutting down, in blatant violation of Stanford’s own Living Wage Policy, a private meeting of workers trying to organize for higher wages from his brother-in-law’s company.

There has been no apology for completely failing to notify Suites residents of ResEd’s decision to end student management, for failing to consult them in any way about the dismissal of their long-serving chefs before making that decision, or for attempting to make that decision behind closed doors and only discussing it at all after a newspaper exposé, 2,500 petition signatures, and a 120-person mass march.

There has been no apology for telling a reporter false information – that there were multiple fires at Suites, for example, when there were not.

There has been no apology for failing to send Student Affairs Officer Tiffany Taylor, who is supposed to supervise Suites regularly, to visit all year.

There has been no apology for emptying the Suites Eating Clubs carryover fund, used to pay for emergency chef health benefits and capital expenditures, without any explanation or warning, causing managers’ summer checks to bounce.

We as students deserve at least some semblance of an apology from ResEd, because these are not the high professional standards we as Stanford students have come to expect and enjoy from our excellent Stanford administrators, the vast majority of whom do wonderful, high-quality work on the job every day.

But instead of an apology from ResEd, we got an attempt at a cover-up – an attempt to make it seem as though ResEd’s mistakes had never happened. The manager who purchased the stereo in December finally got his reimbursement check this weekend – with no apology for the delay. Tiffany Taylor was finally spotted at Suites after a year’s near-complete absence. And Suites managers have suddenly begun receiving helpful emails from R&DE – with overly friendly emoticons in them, no less.

It isn’t Suites’ residents turn to explain our actions anymore. It’s your turn now, ResEd and R&DE, to explain your actions to the student body.

Suites residents and managers know we have responsibilities as students who want to live and work independently – responsibilities to keep a clean living environment, to pay our chefs a living wage, to deliver high-quality food. Suites managers have – as any look at the specific data will tell you – met those responsibilities.

You have responsibilities too, ResEd. Responsibilities to pay your bills on time, to tell the truth, to adhere to Stanford policy and to communicate clearly with students.

We hope that as we move forward toward a solution with which all parties can be happy – a solution we all want and can agree upon – ResEd keeps those responsibilities in mind too.

Contact Miles at [email protected].

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