Princeton University lawsuit

The suit states the university is claiming exempt status for non-academic buildings.

By 
Paul King, Editor

I came across an interesting article last week regarding a lawsuit filed against Princeton University that could have some impact on the Dining Services department. The suit claims that the university is claiming exempt status for buildings that do not serve an academic purpose, in violation of state law.

A group of residents in Princeton Borough lodged the complaint after their property taxes rose as much as 30% in a recent reassessment. The group listed 20 buildings in the suit, including the Frist Student Center, where Dining Services operates several retail outlets, and the university’s infirmary.

The residents are arguing that their property taxes would not be so high if the university paid its fair share of taxes on buildings that should not be exempt.

In 1987, when I worked at Food Management, I wrote a cover story entitled “When Fair Isn’t Fair.” The article focused on “town-gown” relations in a number of college towns and the battles that sometime ensue when local businesses object to universities operating foodservice “businesses” such as catering or pizza restaurants.

This story has a different feel to it, in that it is residents suing over property taxes, rather than local business people going after what is known as unrelated business income tax. But the effect could be similarly deleterious for foodservice departments should the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs and include buildings where Princeton Dining Services has operations.

I’ve not yet spoken to Dining Services Director Stu Orefice about the potential effects of the suit; I’m not sure he’ll even be able to comment at this time. But I believe this is case that will bear watching, because it could affect future consideration of where a foodservice department can set up shop, not just at Princeton but at schools all over the country.