Sodexo expands campus partnerships into student housing and maintenance


Carlos Herrera

Sodexo, one of the largest campus partners, is expanding its reach into housing and residential life. Graphic by Carlos Herrera.

One of New Mexico State University’s largest campus partners, Sodexo, has expanded its reach into another important sector on the Las Cruces campus — student housing and building maintenance. With the new expansion, some are concerned over the quality in services that the conglomerate might offer in those areas.

Previously, NMSU’s collaboration with the global corporation was limited to campus food and dining services, including all vendors and restaurants in Corbett Center, Frenger Food Court, and O’Donnel Hall. However, Sodexo will now also be involved in housing, custodial services and the maintenance of certain campus buildings after negotiating a contract with NMSU. Some have expressed concerns with this increased partnership. 

“ASNMSU was kind of shocked and worried because they started out only serving the food services and now they’re branching out,” said Sophie Pettes, vice president of Associated Students of New Mexico State University. “It’s just very overwhelming because we know that they haven’t done the best job of providing equitable and affordable services to students and student organizations.” 

“And they’ve also been very uncleanly like, just from our personal experience, we’ve had two bugs in our meals,” she continued. “So it’s overwhelming that the quality of their food was never good to start with and now they’re branching out into more campus-wide stuff. It just weighs on us about what kind of quality they will bring to those areas.” 

Besides food issues, Pettes’ biggest concern now is campus housing and residential life. Currently, NMSU’s housing association, the Residence Hall Association, is very involved in the housing system, while other students depend on the money they make as RAs. Now that Sodexo’s involvement in this area has increased, the worry is that the student employees will no longer be funded equitably, and the overall quality of campus housing will go down. 

Sodexo’s expansion of services to housing has long been in the works. David McNabb, Director of Student Living, came to NMSU in 2018 with the start of the collaboration to integrate Sodexo into residential services. He says that with the goal to improve NMSU quality of life, funding was a key point in the partnership with Sodexo. 

“Sodexo brings a lot of different characteristics, including backed buying power from a large company,” McNabb said. “We can help reduce costs in that way, and then added accountability for those quality-of-life tangible goals as it relates to student retention and success. So, I think there’s set parameters and key performance indicators that Sodexo will be held to, to make sure that students are successful and the relationships are being built that we want to be built to ultimately impact student GPAs getting increased and students staying at NMSU and graduating from NMSU.” 

Even so, housing is not the only service at NMSU where money is a concern. Pettes says that catering with Sodexo and NMSU Dining Services can cost hundreds of dollars just for jugs of water, and that their jurisdiction over catering and Corbett does not enable them to work with local businesses as much as they would like. With Sodexo’s new contract, Pettes is hoping that they’ll make some changes.  

“I just wish they were more lenient with the food services that they provide or that we’re allowed to cater,” Pettes said. “I wish they would lower their prices to make things more equitable for students and student organizations, just fix the quality of their foods and be transparent about that. And personally, I don’t think that they should let a private company should have so much jurisdiction over a public university.”  

However, those issues may not be entirely up to Sodexo, according to Ophelia Watkins, NMSU’s director of Housing and Residential Life. The new contract details a partnership rather than a total takeover with the intent that most NMSU services won’t change much other than to make things easier.  

“It is not necessarily Sodexo making the decisions about what needs to be improved,” Watkins said. “Because it’s an NMSU service, NMSU will be guiding Sodexo on the different areas that we need them to focus on or if we feel like they’re not performing in an area. All of the contracts that we have address that Sodexo is providing a service to NMSU, they’re not taking over any of our departments, they still report to NMSU.” 

Watkins encourages any students who have complaints or concerns to speak to NMSU or Sodexo staff so that issues can be investigated and adjusted as needed. She says their goal has always been to provide consistent and efficient service to the NMSU population. 

“We’re just trying to be innovative and creative in the ways that we provide service to the students,” Watkins said. “And yeah, I think that when something changes like this, it can alarm people. But the more we can share information, the more people feel like they can ask the questions and we can have a dialogue about it, I think it really will help so you know, I encourage lots of dialogue about it. If anybody has questions, give me a call.” 

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