Posted July 26, 2012 by Justin Rudisille 

Instant Replay: Issues in Contracting

On July 25, there was virtual round-table discussion held about issues in contracting, which was facilitated by Suzi Halpin and LiLi Metcalf from University of Central Florida. This post gives insight into some of the topics addressed during the program.

Campus professionals can interact with a variety of types of contracts, such as procurement, leases, and revenue sharing agreements. Likewise, their level of involvement with contracts can vary based on whether it is a campus-wide, third-party, direct agreement. The discussion here focused primarily on lease- and commission-related contracts directly entered by unions.

For entering into and working with existing contracts, most of the points that came up related back on the overall theme of putting time and energy into establishing a partnership with vendors. This can play out in several ways, with the union potentially:

  • Being involved as a middle person when addressing unexpected issues such as customer complaints, health inspections, or vendor-to-vendor disputes
  • Serving as a coach for improving sales, adapting hours, and marketing campaigns
  • Looking for win-win situations that might improve sales while meeting a student/facility need
  • Communicating regularly about sales reports and addressing trends or auditing sales as needed
  • Establishing a relationship where all parties understand the needs of various stakeholders involved in the contract

When it comes to termination of contracts when a party is in default, it is of course essential to follow the letter of the law—staying on top of sending notices, patiently working through the terms of lease, and involving the institution’s general counsel in the process.

However, sometimes parties might agree to a mutual termination, or it might be appropriate to begin discussions to nudge a graceful exit. With the latter, when there are not grounds for termination but the vendor is no longer a good fit, union professionals can send them referrals for reassigning their lease or even just allow them an out on some of their contract terms.

Some discussion occurred among participants about how to be successful in bringing in third party business for specific events or one-time programs. In these cases, the facilitators suggested doing research and being prepared with important information, like knowledge of local market costs for similar engagements and traffic count information about your facility.

And finally, the conversation wrapped up with some sharing about what items campuses included as “non-negotiable” in their contracts. Some examples are: the service must accept campus ID card/credit card payment; must use the campus-wide beverage provider; cannot sell university apparel outside of the bookstore; and sustainable practices, such as using paper containers and requiring cardboard recycling.

Let’s continue this discussion!

  • What types of contracts do you work with most in your union or activities office?
  • What lessons have you learned about negotiating terms of contracts or proposals?
  • What have you found to work well in developing relationships with contracted vendors?


Justin Rudisille

Justin Rudisille is the Director of Volunteer & Member Engagement at ACUI.

Justin coordinates the recruitment, training, and recognition initiatives for volunteers at all levels, as well as oversees research initiatives. He liaises with ACUI’s regions, the Volunteer Development Team, the Research Program Team, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, the College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) evaluation program, and the awards and scholarships programs.


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