Tag Archives: staff

In Memory: Pat Colletta, Pi Cashier, Passes Away After Four Decades at Wes

Yesterday I was saddened to learn that Pat Colletta, who worked as a cashier in Pi Cafe, passed away on February 25 after more than 40 years of service at Wesleyan.

“I’m sorry to say the news is true, Pat Colletta is no longer with us,”  wrote food services director Gary Kriksciun in an email to Wesleying. “She started with Wesleyan Dining Services in 1969.  Of course, in that time Pat made many friends on campus. It’s hard to contemplate the tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff she interacted with over the years.”

According to Kriksciun, Pat was most recently a cashier at Pi but held many different job titles during her years at Wes. An obituary notes that she was 76 years old.

Kriksciun also sent the funeral arrangements for Pat, which appear on a sign in Pi. The funeral will take place tomorrow morning at St. Pius Church in Middletown.

“She was an incredibly sweet person and I’m sure I speak for everyone who has worked at Pi over the past few decades that she will be greatly missed,” commented Pi employee Sam Melvin ’13.

Students for Staff: Support Wesleyan’s Workers in Storm Aftermath

This is Dateline Wesleyan, reporting live from the Exley Science Center, where it’s approximately ungodly-o’clock. Live from the scene, Virgil Taylor ’15 is typing the blurb below:

Salutations. You may have received a bunch of emails today, pointing out that: “One perspective which has been neglected in the administrations response to the snow storm has been that of staff, and the unique needs staff face during disasters like this one.” A whole bunch of Wesleyan students got together and talked about that, and we are starting a whole bunch of stuff to fix that. If you missed out, or were in fact there, go to this link,  join the Google Group  and join the conversation. Thanks.

More formally: Many students are unsatisfied with the lack of measures taken to provide support or accomodations to the University’s staff during the storm and ensuing outage, especially in light of the administration’s work to resume classes tomorrow. Examples:

  • Many workers’ homes have lost power and will be without power for days and potentially weeks, endangering University employees’ shelter, food supply, and other basic tenets of survival.
  • Many university employees have children who aren’t going to school (public schools were closed for the week in Meriden and other nearby areas), and now must make tough and potentially costly decisions about child care.
  • Many workers face difficult commutes thanks to gas shortages, dangerous driving conditions, and other risks. Even those who do have power, like my boss, are forced to work long hours to fill duties others cannot.

Students have already begun to take action to support Wesleyan’s staff:  the Exley supply drive is one of several actions being planned or already underway. Different groups are also coordinating the creation of a formal document addressed to the administration, outreach to the Wesleyan community (like this post) and the greater Middletown/Connecticut community staff are a part of, and working with the employees themselves to ensure that their voices are being heard. For more detailed information, get involved! Click through to see the email that inspired this action:

More administrators, whee!

Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley just sent out an all-campus e-mail announcing the appointment of three new staff members as well as the return of David Phillips, formerly the dean for the class of 2010:

Scott Backer, who served a one-year appointment as Assistant Dean of Student Services last year, has received a permanent appointment as Assistant Director of Student Life. In this role, Scott will continue to work directly with the Student Judicial Board and also assist the Dean of Students with co-curricular programming initiatives. A Skidmore College graduate, Scott has a M.Ed. from Antioch University New England. Prior to coming to Wesleyan, he worked in student affairs at Vermont Academy, where he also coached soccer and lacrosse.

Elisa Del Valle will join the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development as Assistant Director. Elisa will advise student organizations on event planning and assist in mentoring and student leadership development. Elisa joins Wesleyan from the Department of Residential Life at Mount Holyoke College, where she has been for the past four years. She has a B.A. from Smith College and recently completed a M.Ed. in Social Justice Education from the University at Massachusetts, Amherst.

Michelle Myers-Brown has accepted our offer to be Director of the Usdan Center. Michelle comes to Wesleyan with strong experience in university center operations from three different campuses, most recently at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she opened a new center. Prior to her experience there, Michelle received her Ph.D. in educational administration from Georgia State University and has served as the director of student activities at DeKalb College. She has significant experience in campus scheduling and guest services as well as campus dining from her previous positions.

Finally, we are thrilled that David Phillips will be rejoining us as the Dean for the Class of 2012. David previously served as a class dean at Wesleyan for seven years and also taught in the GLSP. He spent this past year at Chatham University in Pittsburg [sic] as Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and is eager to return to Wesleyan to resume his work as a class dean. David earned his B.A. and M.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz and his Ph.D. from Yale University in American Studies.

Some of you may remember Scott Backer as the central figure in last year’s “prohibition” fiasco. Also, I believe Dean Rick Culliton served as Usdan director this past year, though the staff page seems to have been updated to reflect the new hires.

Michelle Garcia f ’10 from USLAC Weighs In

Michelle Garcia ’10 is a member of the USLAC’s** dining committee and this is what she has to say:

Wesleyan claims to be a socially progressive, conscious and concerned campus, not just from an administrative point of view but in terms of student involvement. This was clearly reflected in negotiations, and Bon Appetit made a commitment to ensuring that our demands for fair employee practices are met. We’re hiring them, and therefore have the right to negotiate the terms. They’re choosing to work with Wesleyan, and we signed them with the understanding that they would maintain employee contracts as well as ensure the unionized benefits that they’ve worked so hard to establish and maintain.

We’re hiring them, and therefore have the right to negotiate the terms. They’re choosing to work with Wesleyan, and we signed them with the understanding that they would maintain employee contracts as well as ensure the unionized benefits that they’ve worked so hard to establish and maintain. Other supportive students insisted on this during negotiations not as a token gesture, but because we actually care about what happens to these people. They’re faces we see every day, Wendy, Dave, Sue

And the benefits that are being cut aren’t unjustifiable perks

We’re dealing with health care benefits, employees supporting their older parents and their children and wanting to know that the hard work they’re doing serving us is going to grant them the security they’re looking for.

Bon Appetit was fully aware of this during negotiations, presented themselves as willing to cooperate with this, and are now backing out of the deal which is completely inexcusable on several grounds — morally (which is my personal thing, and I understand that people are going to disagree with me) and contractually. They misrepresented themselves during the negotiations that got them signed.

And I think that anyone can agree that it was underhanded.

I’ve heard plenty of people talk about corporate America, turning a profit, “reasonable expectations,” but the fact remains that BA lied about what sort of food provider they really are and we have every right to be angry about that, especially when the consequences are so potentially dire.

I applaud Wesleyan for making sure that they held more contractual sway over BA’s operations. What that effectively means is that Dean Rick, and other Wes administrative representatives, are responsible for green lighting BA’s operations.

I’m not privy to the current contractual arrangement, but from what I understand Dean Rick has the final say. So it is his responsibility, as a representative of our school as well as of administrative concerns about BA, to make sure that BA holds to their end of the bargain. I’m not asking him to be Superman. I am asking him to be accountable, and part of that includes letting BA get away with misrepresentation as little as possible to ensure that workers maintain their health coverage.

No one is asking for an improvement in conditions right now. That’s for union lobbying and other negotiations to decide. Right now, we’re just asking that the hard-won benefits dining workers have gained through intense and committed struggling be maintained.

Sorry for ranting on. I’m really upset about this, and I know that USLAC is too (which is why I’m a part of it).

Got something to say? Email us at Wesleying@gmail.com.

**Previously confused with WSA dining committee.

Union’s Take on the Staffing Issue

So I just had an illuminating phone chat with one of the labor union stewards, Sue Silvestro, who as you might know works at Pi.

Benefits

The problem BA has with the benefits package shouldn’t be a problem at all. During the contract negotiations, the labor union presented each of the bidders with an honest evaluation of their current situation with Aramark, including hours, wages, number of people employed and their benefits package. “No matter what it costs, however,” Silvestro said, “you were given the contract upfront…we did not want to be blamed once again for their failure [to remain solvent].” Silvestro added, “We do have a good package. But we’ve bargained in good faith for over thirty years to get that package.”

In negotiations, BA promised to maintain the service, without cutting staff, wages or benefits. “They were shocked to hear that Wesleyan students cared so much about worker’s rights,” Silvestro said. “We have talked amongst ourselves and we have all agreed that they have no idea of what these students are like—and that’s meant to be seen in the best light. Students on this campus care. They care about recycling. They care about food waste feeding the poor. They care about worker’s rights. And [BA] has not experienced that at any other university.”

However, over the past two weeks, BA has made those same cuts it promised not to, and it’s having an impact on the staff. Delmar Crim, Bon Appetit’s district manager described BA’s recently discovered position that the benefits package is impractical and uncommon (however, they did not seem to have a problem with it during the bidding).

While benefits are available for workers who work 20 hours or more a week, Silvestro noted that much of the staff has seen their hours cut to 17.5 hours a week—a flagrant move, in my opinion, to shortchange them on benefits. She noted that many 40-hour staffers have seen their hours cut to 37.5 as well, in order to deny them full-time benefits. While in his emailed response, Delmar claimed that there are 69 full-time staff positions at Wesleyan, Silvestro and others in the staff note there are only two with the recent changes.

Overall, 149 hours have been trimmed from the staff’s schedules, which, as you can see, could mean a big savings to BA if they strategize which hours they’re cutting. Silvestro expressed the anxiety these changes are causing amongst the staff, describing a recent phone call with a colleague who is afraid of a family member going in for surgery not knowing whether he will have the health insurance to cover it. “People with lower hour jobs are coming to work this year fearing that any small cut could lose them their benefits…This is an unfair labor practice which compromises the standard of living of the staff” she explained.

Fresh Food? How?

One of BA’s promises was to deliver food almost entirely local and fresh. As Silvestro explains, when Aramark received their bid, for five years, Summerfields operated on a “fresh food” model, making everything from scratch. Obviously, the food was a hit with students and it was one of the more successful operations on campus. However, fresh food requires more labor than dumping frozen fried chicken into a fryer or opening a can. Silvestro believes that because fresh food is inherently labor-intensive, the quality of food will be compromised in relation to the hours that are cut. So these cuts are not promising.

Hours Cut Already

Already, Silvestro explains, Pi may see its hours cut. When asked why no workers were scheduled to work at Pi over the weekends, BA responded with ambiguity, stating they were unsure whether they’d actually be keeping it open over the weekend. There have also been talks of canceling late night with the compromise of keeping Usdan’s a la carte operation open slightly longer. As noted previously, this probably won’t sit well with students.

A la Carte + Less Cashiers =Longer Lines = Bigger Profits

Silvestro explained how Crim said that Usdan was designed to cut back on labor. Segmented into stations, there is less room for workers behind the scenes. It doesn’t need as many cashiers. However, anyone can foresee how this will pan out: if you have an a la carte operation between the hours of 8am and 3pm, and student traffic concentrates between the hours of 11:50pm and 1:10pm and you have less cashiers to service the students each grabbing only one or two things, well, gee, I think that’s going to mean long lines. But since students have to pay for the meal plan and are forced to eat there anyway, dealing with longer lines and grumbling students doesn’t bother BA because they aren’t afraid of us eating somewhere else. So this is just one example of how cuts are made which affect workers–which in turn affect students directly.

BA’s Gamble

Bon Appetit, Silvestro believes, sees Wesleyan as their break into the world of elite colleges, including the Ivy League and other selective schools. Our contract was seen as a critical strategic move and so they made big promises. “They promised you the world,” she said. But like Aramark, which failed, in Silvestro’s opinion, largely because it failed to listen to the students, BA seems to be modeling itself on those very same failures.

Wesleyan’s Part

“Wesleyan has a role in this as well. They aren’t able to make a move without Wesleyan’s approval,” said Silvestro reminds us.

  • Related: Argus coverage of worker concerns after BA wins contract (buried quite a few paragraphs down).

Dining Staff Updates

Guys, I love Wendy. Finding out that she’s getting shafted personally pisses me off, but the entire idea of BA shifting the books in order to shaft nine-year veterans to deny them benefits infuriates me, especially since they’re supposed to be the “socially conscious” dining service.

So because the email is vague and we don’t know exactly what’s going on, I have sent out emails to Dean Rick (rculliton@wes), BA’s district manager (dcrim@wes), Wesleyan’s human resources department and Wendy.

We’ll keep you updated with their reply.

(I’m not even sure who is the “right” person to contact, so I sent out a barrage. Feel free to do the same.)

There’s also a “Feedback” page on BA’s Wesleyan page.

Edit: Mad Weiss ’09 comments:

I think it was clear when Bon Apetit was chosen that the students and workers really wanted a provider that would keep the benefits that the worker’s union had fought for and won with Aramark – and Bon Apetit promised to deliver.

It should come as a surprise, because I think a lot of people would have been more hesitant to choose Bon Apetit over Aramark if they knew it meant really adverse effects for the workers – but BA promised again and again that it was all fair and clean.

So, if this does turn out to be true, I think it’s reasonable to be surprised and angry.

Don’t you Wish They Did this Every Weekend?

So yesterday, Wesleyan had a Staff and Faculty appreciation picnic in the CFA courtyard. There were llamas and ponies and watermelon and unlimited amounts of ice cream and cookies and brownies and strawberries and moon bounces and….
Also there was this? What is this? It seriously just looked like a giant inflatable vagina. But on the other side it’s a clown’s face. You’re supposedly entering into his “ear.” Yeah ok. It’s a vagina.

Meet Mr. Postman

Holly Nicolas is much more than a really nice Postal Clerk. Olivia Bartlett of the Wesleyan Connection has the scoop:

“It’s fun to interact with the university’s faculty, staff and students every day, and I like when I can put a face with a name,” Nicolas says. “Working here, you see people’s names over and over and it’s good to know who they are. The students are surprised when I can know their mailbox number off the top of my head, but when you look at them every day; it stays in your head.”

In addition to his mail duties, Nicolas has one other job requirement – playing the role of deejay for Wesleyan Station. The lifelong music lover is an expert on Haitian beats, from traditional kompa dance music to band a pied, which is played with brass horns and drums.

In February, Nicolas was featured on Afropop Worldwide Radio. The interview of Nicolas was conducted by Sean Barlow ’79, president of World Music Productions/Afropop Worldwide Radio in Brooklyn, and freelance guitarist and Afropop Worldwide host Banning Eyre ’80. The recording is online here.

Nicholas talked about his memories of Haitian Carnival. The carnival season begins Jan. 6 on Three Kings Day and runs until Fat Tuesday. During the last three days of this period, some Haitians dress in colorful costumes and dance, sing, dance and celebrate their culture.

The celebration was a tradition for Nicolas, who grew up in Ouanaminthe, a small town that borders the Dominican Republic on the northeast of Haiti. During one carnival, he recalls, local musicians sang about a woman who stole a chicken.

“That was funny to me, because I knew that woman. She lived next to me,” he says.

This is Nicolas’ eighth year working at Wesleyan. In the early 1990s, he met Wesleyan’s Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor religion, African American Studies and American Studies. McAlister was in Haiti, studying Haitian traditions and Voodoo. The couple married and spent three years trying to get Nicolas’ daughter, Lovely, to America. She is now 20 and a sophomore at Hampshire College.

Nicolas and McAlister live in Middletown with their children, Sacha, 13, and Julien, 8. He enjoys cooking Haitian food for his family and playing intramural soccer.

He returns to his native country once a year but never regrets moving to the U.S.

“Moving to American was a good move for me, but it was especially a good move for my daughter, who now lives in a safer environment with better educational opportunities,” he says. “We are both very fortunate.”

Also, watch out for his son, Julien. He’s a little charmer.