News | Administration

Without store manager, Barnard Store operations, staff training hindered

The Barnard Store has been operating without a manager this semester, which has hindered store operations and new employee training, according to current employees.

The store has been in a period of transition since its manager, Celina Kelly, BC ’09, left in May. Since her departure, the college has taken over management from third-party vendor Aramark—who employed Kelly—but has not yet found a formal manager to oversee daily operations, run the online store, and train new student staff members.

The Barnard Store, which sells college merchandise, was originally a completely student-operated business located in the former McIntosh Center. When the building was replaced by the Diana Center in 2010, the college decided to expand the size of the store and recognized that non-student store management would be necessary.

But rather than take over full responsibility of the store, Barnard asked Aramark, the college’s food service provider, to include management of all Diana Center operations—the store, Liz’s Place, and the student dining room—in their contract.

Despite this, Vice President for Campus Services Gail Beltrone said in an interview with Spectator that the division of management between Barnard and Aramark was fairly “artificial.” Although Aramark supervised and paid the salary of the store’s manager, merchandise for the store was purchased through Barnard, student workers were paid by the college, and expenses and revenue were directly tied to college finances. Barnard’s communications department also oversaw all branding and maintained veto power on merchandise.

Kelly, who was the store’s manager from 2009 to May of this year, said she had met several times with Beltrone and other campus service staff to discuss the possibility of having the store manager position be a Barnard employee instead.

“I thought Barnard should have a more direct role in the store, obviously,” Kelly said. “They neglected the idea that they have a shop and that they should take care of it.”

Though Beltrone said she had begun speaking with Aramark about transitioning the store to Barnard’s purview, it wasn’t a “high priority” at the time. It wouldn’t be until this May, when Kelly left the position, that the college officially took over full management of the store from Aramark.

“While it was very convenient for us to have them [Aramark] manage basically the employee, we were basically managing everything else, so when Celina decided to take another job downtown, we said, ‘This is actually the perfect opportunity because we were going to do it anyway,’” Beltrone said.

With this new management model, the store manager position will hold the same responsibilities as in previous years, but will now report directly to Director of Campus Services Administration Julia Wang, who works under Beltrone.

Beltrone said she hopes to hire a new supervisor for the store over the next month and that the college has begun interviewing potential candidates this week.

Although Wang has been supervising student employees and overseeing store operations in the meantime, current employees said that the absence of a formal manager has hindered store operations and new employee training. Additionally, the online store has been out of service since the summer and will not reopen until a new manager has been hired, according to Beltrone.

“Julia has been working really hard, and I know she is trying to find someone who will fit as a boss and a manager, but, at the same time, we don’t have anybody in the manager’s office,” current Barnard Store employee Morgan Geraghty, BC ’18, said. “When customers come in asking us about specific items, we have to tell them we are in between management and we don’t know.”

Current employees also said that, unlike in previous years, they have been tasked with training new staff members who were hired at the beginning of the semester by Beltrone and Wang.

In the past, Kelly—not returning student employees—managed training and held orientation sessions for new employees. She would also be on-site with new staff for their first few shifts to address any questions or concerns that arose.

Returning employees said that without these orientation sessions, the current model of on-the-job learning means that new employees have been operating without a thorough understanding of how the job works and without clear management.

“Celina would take the time to welcome students to the store before their first shift, give them a tour. Now, they are just asking [returning student workers] and learning as they go. Whoever works their first shift with them tells them what to do,” Geraghty said.  

Though current employees and Kelly said they agreed that having the manager be a Barnard employee was beneficial, they had hoped someone would be hired before the start of the semester.

“My greatest failing was leaving without setting the girls up with a new manager,” Kelly said. “I love the girls that work at the store. I definitely care about them, and I want them to have a great experience on campus.”

aubri.juhasz@columbiaspectator.com | @AubriRuth

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