Section: archive

MMAP Defers to Administration

By David McCabe

The Maintenance Management Advisory Panel (MMAP) issued its final set of recommendations on Tuesday morning, saying that while the College should continue to consider outsourcing maintenance management as a viable option, it should not consider a partnership with Sodexo Inc., the French corporation whose proposed hiring prompted public backlash and led to the creation of the Panel.

The group which was comprised of union representatives, faculty members, staff, alumni, trustees and students identified three other ways to improve Kenyons maintenance operation, in addition to working with an outside contractor. They did not express a preference as to which route the administration should take, instead demurring to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman.

I thought that we wanted to provide all the options, not take anything off the table for the administration to decide, said Larry James, the Kenyon trustee and Columbus attorney who chaired the Panel.

James said the Panels mission was to vet the process that had been used to come to the decision to contract with Sodexo rather than just examine the decision itself.

The question was, Did they get it right? he said of that process. They got it right.

Still, the Panel did not rule out other ways for the administration to confront the issues surrounding maintenance management at Kenyon, highlighting three proposals in addition to outsourcing: the Middle Path proposal of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 712 (the union representing skilled trades workers at the College), bringing in an outside consultant to make operations more efficient or having the College hire someone to manage new systems and training initiatives themselves.

Were the College to hire the necessary personnel on its own, it would avoid several disadvantages of outsourcing, the Panel said. But it expressed concern that such an employee might not have the same level of authority as an outside contractor.

Though it noted that the Unions proposals would potentially breed efficiency through increased trust, the group also found many disadvantages to the Unions proposal as a stand-alone plan, including stipulations for the College to retain its current technology and the danger that existing problems would continue not to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.
The report was drafted by David Trautman, a trustee, Associate Professor of Chemistry James Keller and Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann, according to James. Panel members then reviewed the draft and made suggestions.

The entire Panel approved it. In a meeting on Oct. 24, Union representatives on the Panel objected to the reports allowance of outsourcing as a general solution. According to James, that was the only doubt about the report expressed by the Union.

I would say what this report does is essentially turn the decision back over to the administrator who made it in the first place, President S. Georgia Nugent said in an interview on Tuesday.

They almost kind of reauthorized the decision making, she said.

She also expressed reservations about some of the Unions proposals.

I personally feel that I have yet to see anything of a substantive proposal in [option] number four, from the unions, she said. But Mark [Kohlman] is going to be working with them to try and get to a proposal that can clearly be set on the table alongside others.

Nugent sustained her defense of Sodexo, whose selection she supported when it was announced in spite of public opposition.

I believe that they probably offer the best service and the greatest experience, Nugent said. As I said at the time, they are on many, many college campuses and those campuses have not fallen down into rubble.

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