Yager: CAS monopolizes food service, needs improvements

CAS: Geneseo’s Campus Auxiliary Services is a not-for-profit corporation which manages food services, catering and vending machines, handles our student IDs and provides numerous other services to students.

With numerous opportunities for employment, many students see CAS as a boon to our community, providing salaries to students and business opportunities to support our peers’ futures. CAS, however, goes against the one unbreakable rule of economics: Monopolies are bad for everyone. That’s right. CAS is a food distribution monopoly that takes your money, converts it into otherwise worthless bits of data and then overcharges you for the only food available on campus.

According to CAS’ 2010 tax returns, CAS had an income of $14.7 million. Sadly, that’s $14.7 million that you, the students of Geneseo, paid to use the CAS meal plan or paid at CAS dining halls, restaurants and à la carte shops. Unfortunately for the 990 reported freshmen students admitted this year, the $3,876 meal plan was mandatory. This means that CAS, from freshmen alone, was guaranteed $3.84 million. So in essence, being a student at Geneseo also means that we, the students seeking education, are forced to subsidize a not-for-profit company or go without education.

Many may rebut that Geneseo and CAS are no different than any other corporation and therefore have every right to make corporate deals in each other’s favor. That very well may be true. CAS being the corporation it is, however, makes it just as vulnerable to the effects of being a monopoly as anyone else. To my eyes at least, CAS has become complacent in how they conduct their businesses. Have you been in Red Jacket Dining Hall this year? Lines are long, cashiers are slow and the food is lacking. This can be said for all food services provided by CAS. Every afternoon at Mary Jemison dining hall results in indistinguishable lines of over 100 students buying $6 burgers or pasta and, I kid you not, $8 eight packs of 7.5 ounce cans of Coke. $8 for 1.7 liters is obnoxious at best and an insult at worst.

If CAS had to compete in a scenario of free market capitalism, they would fail. The inability to provide adequate service or quality food would leave it in last place in a race for loyal, happy customers. So how do we improve the state of food on campus? Remove CAS’ food service outright. I posit that if the real estate used by MJ, RJ and Letchworth dining halls were rented to corporate franchises, not only would Geneseo make enough income to decrease the cost of room and board but the overall condition of food would improve. In addition, those who are currently employed by CAS happen to also be the ideal employees in other food venues – cheap labor with a regular schedule who can be trained easily. It’s practically win/win.

CAS has been around since 1951 and I imagine that the monopoly isn’t planning on going anywhere soon. Why should it? It makes incredible sums of money per year for perpetual expansion and renovation. So how can we let CAS know that their business practices are bad for us? Vote with our dollars where we can: the meal plan. If only half of the 5,485 student population took the money they would use on a meal plan and spent it directly on food, CAS would lose out on the income it makes when you cannot empty your meal plan. It will also inspire our peers to buy within their means and eat better portions. Let’s show CAS that we have a voice too.