CAS forum attempts to address criticism

Campus Auxiliary Services joined together with Student Association over the past week to host a series of open forums. Held on Wednesday Feb. 3–Friday Feb. 5 and Monday Feb. 8, the forums were primarily organized in response to concerns about CAS on social media, specifically in the Facebook group “Protest against CAS.” Each forum was divided into an explanation of CAS’s position at Geneseo followed by an opportunity for audience questions. At the forums, SA Director of Inter-Residence Affairs senior Tyler Sherman served as the moderator.

“Mark Scott—who is the executive director of CAS—came to myself and Andrew Hayes—the SA President—in early October and had suggested we do something like this,” he said. “Toward the end of the semester, seeing the ‘Protest against CAS’ [Facebook] page certainly sparked a lot of discussion and a lot of concerns.”

At the forum on Thursday Feb. 4, Sherman noted that the audience looked “a tad bit older than most of our students,” referencing the large presence of CAS representatives. The forum began with introductions from these representatives, followed by a short informational PowerPoint presentation by Scott. At various points, Scott would defer to a colleague in order to explain a subject in more detail.

Other than the input from representatives, Scott led a large portion of the open forum.

“If Geneseo wasn’t here, CAS wouldn’t be here; we aren’t a multinational corporation,” he said. Noting that CAS relies on Geneseo, Scott emphasized that CAS is still a business.

“There are economic pressures that we have to deal with, just like any other company on Main Street,” he said.

Scott referred to CAS Assistant Director of Account and Finance Pam Connor to further explain the pricing system, since it was a concern for multiple students. Connor expanded upon Scott’s comments by comparing CAS to some of its competitors.

“We can’t ever sell as much as Walmart or Wegmans” she said. “We’ll never be able to have the same sorts of margins as those larger sellers … CAS’s focus isn’t on the revenue line, it’s on the expense lines.”

Attendance from students was lower than expected at all four open forums. Sherman estimated that “in total, we had 22 students attend the four forums.”

The students who did attend the forums took advantage of the time allotted for questions by voicing their concerns and those of their peers. For example, junior Kimberly Ward came with a notepad of questions and concerns to the forum on Friday Feb. 5. Since there were relatively few questions from other students, Ward was able to raise a large number of the concerns she had directly to Scott.

One question that Ward asked was whether CAS “would be willing to add some accommodations to the off-campus meal plan.” Scott responded that CAS would look into lowering the minimum payment for the off-campus meal plan next year. Currently, the “Off-Campus Express” meal plan requires a minimum payment of $250.

Students also raised concerns about sanitation of food preparation. At the forum on Thursday Feb. 4, Scott answered questions on food safety by explaining CAS’s response to food safety issues.

“If there is something actually wrong, we want to know about it right away—we want to investigate fully,” he said. “We found last semester with University Police Department that two of the events were actually contrived … We want to investigate everything fully; we want to see if it’s made up or we want to own it.”

Sherman voiced a plan to meet with Scott and other CAS representatives to, “have some valid conclusions come from this.” He emphasized the importance of using student feedback to make changes.

“It’s not just concerns being heard, but actions being taken,” he said. “I’d like to try and advocate for the students and take their concerns voiced here and essentially make an impact.”