Does easier mean better?

by Simpsonian editors

Ken Birkenholtz, Simpson’s vice president for business and finance recently told a Simpsonian reporter that the reason the college pays large companies to run dining services, maintenance services and the bookstore is because it is easier that way.

The Simpsonian does some outsourcing of its own. The brand new Web site would not exist if we hadn’t signed a contract with a Web hosting service from Lincoln, Neb. We also have contracts with two wire services from which we occaisonally publish content. We can provide more and better news and information through these contracts. We think this results in a better product.

This line of reasoning seems to pretty much mirror that of Simpson officials. Birkenholtz said that the outsourcing Simpson does results in a better service. The management of dining services, the bookstore and campus maintenance are all better done by large regional or national companies such as Sodexho Marriott or Follett, than Simpson itself, say officials. However, this leaves some questions unanswered.

Is there a cost to students in terms of service? Complaints and concerns regarding Simpson’s meal plans may have reached a new high this year. What is the impact of the Sodexho contract on how these concerns are addressed?

What else does student money indirectly support through these contracts? Last spring, students at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y. protested Sodexho Marriott on their campus in light of that company’s involvement with the privatized prison industry. Students have a vested interest in where their money ends up.

Perhaps most importantly, exactly how cost effective are these contracts? Considering these concerns, are Simpson students getting a good deal? Or are they paying more simply so that Simpson doesn’t have to do the training, hiring and firing – which seems to be the primary benefit of the system?

The next time these three contracts come up for approval, college officials really need to decide if they can justify them. Do the math first. Easier does not always equal better.