By Steven Jackson
As of this Tuesday, Nov. 1, the grounds crew at Beloit College is under the management of an outside firm. With only one week under the new management, it remains unclear how this change will impact daily operations, not to mention the lives of college staff.
President Scott Bierman announced the change at his fall conversation this week. The firm that will now be managing grounds is Clinton-based Furman Bros Landscaping, a small company owned and operated by brothers Andrew and Derrick Furman.
Under these changes, the grounds crew was reduced from seven employees to four. The remaining three employees were reassigned as “facility services” workers. They currently have the same pay and benefits, but a different job description and an altered workday schedule. Their change in responsibilities is still being worked out.
Work requests for the grounds crew now have to go through the Human Resources Office, which serves as liaison for the Furman Bros. Physical Plant Office Manager LeeAnn Ryan said that the extra step in communication has been challenging so far.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Ryan of the changes. “It’s hard to predict what’ll happen, because it’s never been done before.”
The decision to change grounds management was discussed for several months by Bierman, the Human Resources Office and Physical Plant Director Michael Brady. They ultimately determined that an outside firm was the best option for bringing more knowledge and expertise to the college’s grounds operation, Bierman said at his Tuesday address.
Many have questioned this rationale for the outsourcing, asking why new management was not sought from in-house employees with years of Physical Plant experience.
Ian Hedges’12 heard about the outsourcing through Beloit Solidarity and promptly initiated a silent protest at Bierman’s Tuesday address. Over 20 students and some staff members participated, holding signs with questions regarding the outsourcing.
“Bierman spoke a lot about preserving human capital in the past, and now I think he’s going back on that,” Hedges said.
Bierman said that the move to outsource management would not affect pay or benefits, but rumors abound suggesting otherwise. According to Hedges, several college employees who wish to remain anonymous have suggested that the changes will lead to a two-dollar cut in hourly pay.
When asked about the issue, Brady stated, “As far as I know, there is no decrease in pay.” Bierman was unavailable for comment on the issue due to travel this week.
The changes have raised questions and sparked conversation on campus. The Round Table will continue to address these questions and further the conversation in future issues.