Clubs and societies on the University of Toronto Mississauga campus are finding it difficult to book venues outside of the student centre due to the high catering costs of the university’s food service contractor, Chartwells.
Their contract, which can be found on the UTM website, states “Chartwells shall provide catering services as one of a limited number of approved caterers at UTM.”
Because of this bylaw, clubs and societies that host events in any university building, separate from the Student Centre, can only find catering through Chartwells.
In an email correspondence with the vice-president of the English and Drama Students Society Christina Khokhar, Khokhar stated that, “In order to cater from elsewhere the clubs have to book within the Student Centre which has a great space with the Pub and Presentation room. However, space and availability is limited as these places are often in high demand by other clubs and societies with the same idea.”
“As a student-run society on campus, we try to be as cost-efficient as possible in the running of our events. While we appreciate the Chartwell’s accessibility and ease in booking, it can run steep when the prices accumulate.”
When interviewed about the issue, Cinema Studies Association president Janina Malapitan stated that the association never use Chartwells due to limited funding for the year. “The prices for food just can’t fit in with our budget, so we often opt for more affordable food outside of Chartwells.”
The Medium reached out to Chartwells for a comment about how the company is engaging with the student body and measuring the overall satisfaction of students.
Chartwells told The Medium that every year they set up multiple checkpoints around campus for three weeks in October to seek student feedback. Their on-site engagement manager and their student ambassadors seek student feedback and provide iPads for survey responses.
When asked about their feedback system, Chartwells representative Ashlee Collins stated, “student participation is quite low despite our efforts.”
“UTM aims to promote student involvement and cater to student activities and events to further foster a community on campus,” Khokhar told The Medium. “It is wonderful, but we need realistic means of making this happen. We don’t want to sacrifice events because of budgets. With cheaper prices or more options, we’d be able to host more events and by effect engage more of the students—which in the end, is our goal.”