Fat Trucks vs. Rutgers

New Jersey’s Rutgers University has historically been home to a wide variety of sandwich trucks selling delicious, if not entirely nutritious, food to students and employees. The practice may be about to come to an end.

As The Star-Ledger reports:

After nearly two decades of living large in a campus parking lot, Rutgers University’s infamous “grease trucks” may be forced to hit the road again as the school considers major changes to one of its most beloved icons.

The food trucks — known for the “Fat Darrell,” “Fat Cat” and other gut-busting sandwiches — have been permanently parked in Lot 8 on the New Brunswick campus for years with the state university’s blessing.

But proposed changes could potentially be very bad for the grease trucks. According to the article:

Rutgers would require the trucks to leave campus overnight. University officials also want to put the coveted spaces in the lot up for public bid, raise the rent and require the trucks to collect and remove their own grease.

The trucks have been parked at the university since the 1990s. Then PepsiCo representatives noticed that some of the trucks were selling Coke products. Rutgers has a contract with PepsiCo that forces the institution to provide Pepsi products only on campus.

Once that problem came to light, Rutgers started to notice other problems. No one knew how to allow new vendors on campus. There were certain trucks that has just been there for decades, but how could new trucks break into the business? No one knew.

According to the article,

Rutgers also wants to put the spots up for public bid to eliminate any appearance the public university is giving special treatment to the privately-owned businesses. Student preferences for “fat sandwiches” or other types of food could be considered when awarding the contracts, [Rutgers Director of Transportation Services Jack] Molenaar said.

This sort of rationale sounds appropriate, but why did Rutgers suddenly develop a concern for fair play? A look at the school’s spending history reveals that Rutgers really doesn’t care much about what’s just.

This is the same institution that said it was in an “extreme fiscal crisis” and therefore couldn’t give school employees scheduled raises last year and then turned around agreed to pay outgoing president Richard McCormick $335,000 a year, for the rest of his life. Then the school, pleading “impact of the struggling economy on our state and our university community,” hiked tuition in July. Two months earlier, however, the school spent $30,000 to hire Toni Morrison to be its graduation speaker. It also turns out the school spends $27-million to subsidize its athletic department.

With a record like this, at least allow the students to keep the sandwiches they like on campus. It’s really the least Rutgers can do.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer