Saturday, July 26, 2014

Conclusion - Peradeniya eFac canteen story written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz

Today we conclude "The Canteen Story" written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz. Use the link below to access previously published instalments.

Part 1: Birth of an idea
Part 2: Opening moves - research and report
Part 3. The first Canteen Committee (C.C.)
Part 4: The Inner Circle
Part 5: Financial practices
Part 6: A leap forward - extension in services 

Part 7: Conclusion

Taking what at first seemed to be no more than a wild idea of young minds from null state to fruition was, to those who shared this mission, an altogether new and exhilarating experience with dimensions that far outstripped profit. It brought home to many of us the surprising invulnerability and 'power over events' bestowed on a brotherhood bonded by mutual trust, confident of its own resourcefulness and above all driven by a common vision.

To my deep regret my search for the records of these events has proved fruitless leaving me no option but to draw these recollections from a memory misted by age and time.

If only I could name each member of this selfless band of visionaries who were my companions in this adventure, I would do so now, for it is owed to them that they be neither forgotten nor unsung. It is in their name that I address the present bearers of the torch that these precursors first set alight:

"Greetings from the past. Go well!"


I would like to thank Mr. Somapala Hewavitharana, who currently lives in Perth, Australia for sending this historical account written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz to eFacMemories blog.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Canteen Story Part 6 : A leap forward - extension in services

Part 6 of "The Canteen Story" written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz is published today. Use the link below to access previously published instalments.

Part 1: Birth of an idea
Part 2: Opening moves - research and report
Part 3. The first Canteen Committee (C.C.)
Part 4: The Inner Circle
Part 5: Financial practices

Part 6. A leap forward - extension in services 

Initial plans were based on the prudent 'last case premise' that revenues were derived from tea profits alone. In practice early escalations in patronage and progressive streamlining of services and the consequential increases in revenue from tea and from sales of cigarettes and food (excluded in planning), combined to generate profits that were significantly in excess of the conservative early estimates. This outcome encouragedthe C.C. with its newfound dynamism to seek new fields for conquest.

To begin with, immediate steps were taken towards the repayment of the university loan. This was achieved in half the stipulated time! On deeper review it was decided at this point that:

a. canteen tariffs be held fixed and standards maintained despite the alarming rises in the costs of food and general supplies outside;

b. the canteen's daily menu be extended to include popular food items like hoppers and stringhoppers with customary accompaniments, as well as favored other savories - this was to make the canteen a popular breakfast center for the non-resident working staff of the faculty;

c. the canteen become a provider of quality stationary and instruments at the lowest feasible cost, to students of the Faculty who hitherto had, of necessity, to purchase these items from middle-suppliers in the private sector, at substantial expense.

To the latter end, two members of the C.C. were delegated to conduct supply negotiations with relevant authorities in the Government Paper corporation in Colombo, which was at that time the sole conduit of drawing paper to the private sector. Despite an initial display of reluctance on their part, insistent appeals and elucidations backed by explanations overcame objections and our request was finally conceded with a generous quota allocation authorized from this source direct to the C.C., enabling the latter to provide drawing paper to students of the Faculty at less than half the prevailing price.

Drawing instruments were a more complex issue. The only sources of drawing instruments up to this time were a few suppliers in the private sector who dealt exclusively with costly instruments of British manufacture. As a first step towards an alleviation of this expense, the chairman of the C.C. addressed diplomatic representatives of countries of recognized repute in the manufacture of scientific instruments soliciting their interest and seeking suggestions as to delivery and cost. The responses to this communication were prompt and encouraging. The particular response from the commercial attache of the Czech embassy was deemed, by consensus in the committee, to be the most promising and favourable. Accordingly, samples of Czech design were requested and duly provided. These were judged to be comparable in both quality and design to those already in vogue and were available at costs substantially below those prevailing. The deal was forthwith sealed at the Czech embassy in Colombo by representatives of the C.C. and orders duly placed and ratified on that occasion.

The arrival of these instruments at the canteen stores was received with jubilation among our students, and procedures were soon in place for their sale in the canteen (at one set per student) at a price which, despite a modest margin of profit, fell far below those of earlier years.

These initiatives of the C.C. were crowned with success and brought in revenues that vastly out-stripped our early timid expectations. At this stage the C.C. itself may be said to have progressed from its faltering first steps to a position of confidence and maturity, and the time for setting acceptable criteria for the disbursement of profits had arrived. After due deliberation, it was unanimously agreed that the following targets be set, subject to review in very special circumstances:

a. 30% of profits be banked in a canteen contingency fund;

b. 20% be diverted as bonus in savings accounts in the name of members of the canteen staff in recognition of their contribution to this outcome, and that

c. 50% be reserved for salaries, dues, current running expenses, and for the retention of canteen prices in an environment of sharply rising costs.

At around this time the C.C. could no longer, in common fairness, afford to ignore the substantial additional load that devolved on the treasurer from these added undertakings. He (Mr Manniyangama) continued, uncomplaining, to discharge his duties in the C.C. with his customary meticulousness and excellence, paying dearly for it in lost evenings and curtailed week-ends. The recognition of these services took the form of a monthly allowance allocated from canteen funds to the office of treasurer. This arrangement was authorized by the Vice Chancellor, who demanded to be assured that these duties were not discharged in 'official time' which, indeed, by their very nature, they were not.

In further pursuance of its mission, canteen food supplies were extended in both volume and variety and catering services were provided for faculty occasions at all levels. When funds exceeded pre-judged limits, the spill-over was often used for student awards for each year, based exclusively on academic merit.

As a further measure of service, a cheque/money order/postal order cashing facility was provided by the treasurer to all members of the faculty out of weekly canteen takings which were, by then, large enough to accommodate a scheme of this kind. Needless to say, this initiative was received with high enthusiasm by the whole community. It can be claimed that at this stage the C.C. objectives of 'quality service at low cost' were by and large met.

To be concluded with next chapter:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Canteen Story - Financial practices

Part 5 of "The Canteen Story" written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz is published today. Use the link below to access previously published instalments.

Part 1: Birth of an idea
Part 2: Opening moves - research and report
Part 3. The first Canteen Committee (C.C.)
Part 4: The Inner Circle

Part 5. Financial practices

As a matter of routine, daily sales records of tea and cigarettes and of food items provided by selected private suppliers were maintained by Mr Manniyangama and were used to confirm cash returns at the close of each day. At each weekend these daily accounts and cash collections were submitted to the Chairman for checking and acceptance. In all my years as chairman, I can recall but one instance where a discrepancy of a minor kind surfaced in the course of this exercise, whereat the deficiency was promptly made good by personal contribution. On confirmation of these weekly accounts, the cash collected was approved for depositing in a 'Canteen Account' in the Bank of Ceylon across the river.

On the last day of each month, all suppliers of canteen foods were given detailed records of their supplies in that month complemented by cash in full settlement of dues and a brief accompanying note of thanks. A few days later a meeting of the full committee was called, at which a comprehensive balance sheet setting out the current financial state of the canteen was tabled and questions of policy and practice arising from it were discussed and ratified for implementation.

These financial initiatives sewed to provide the C.C. with a capability of surprising sensitivity and flexibility, and furthermore, endowed it with a growing confidence in the use of its regulatory powers.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Canteen Story - Part 4: The Inner Circle

Part 4 of "The Canteen Story" written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz is published today. Use the link below to access previously published instalments.

Part 1: Birth of an idea
Part 2: Opening moves - research and report
Part 3: The first Canteen Committee (C.C.)

Part 4. The Inner Circle

While matters of broad policy were reserved for the full C.C.,  the day to day affairs of the committee were controlled by an inner executive of three, comprising the chairman (Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz), the secretary (Mr H. Somapala), and the treasurer (Mr P. Manniyangama) . In enterprises like this the contributions of the treasurer and secretary are pivotal to success. The first committee was singularly fortunate in its choices of the late Mr P. Manniyangama as its treasurer, and Mr H. Somapala as its secretary who were both to continue in these roles well into the future.

Mr Manniyangama, with his wide-ranging background in book keeping and accountancy brought a valuable and sorely needed expertise into financial management within the committee. He discharged these duties with despatch, meticulousness, and unflagging zeal, setting standards of performance that were truly noteworthy. He will, no doubt, reappear as my story unfolds.

Mr Somapala, positioned as he was at the very heart of the committee, was its central executive officer and the custodian of its memory. He too served the committee with distinction freely bestowing on it the benefits of his considerable electro-mechanical skills - his ingenious mains-powered push-button substitute for the 'lamp and paper' cigarette lighter of pre-C.C. times was just one example of this.

Individually it may be said of them, each excelled in his own special way; working together in harmony as they did, they were simply unbeatable.

The chairman's role in this executive was by and large a supervisory one, invested with the delegated adjudicatory authority of the C.C..

In special situations assistance whether in work or in views, solicited from the parent committee was readily forthcoming. In such instances the services Dr Milton Amaratunga, Mr W. Dahanayake, and in particular Dr S. Naguleswaran merit special mention.

Continued: Part 5: Financial practices

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peradeniya eFac Canteen Story Continued-

Part 3 of "The Canteen Story" written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz is published today. Use the link below to access previously published instalments.

Part 1: Birth of an idea
Part 2: Opening moves - research and report

Part 3. The first Canteen Committee (C.C.) - its composition and preliminary activities


The first C.C. was now formally constituted and was composed of two representatives each from the teaching staff, the laboratory staff, and the administration; one representative each from the skills division and the administrative division of the workshop and finally, student representatives comprising the three initiators of this project with a floating complement of one representative from each course-year-batch in the student body.

Preliminary activities:

In the first few meetings of the C.C. deliberations were conducted and formal decisions taken, on the following subjects:

a. objectives,

b. the duties and conditions of service of the canteen staff,

c. a duty roster for C.C. members that did not seriously interfere with their academic or official duties at the faculty,

d. structural changes within the canteen to ensure smooth flow at the service counter,

e. the purchase of stores and equipment.

Decisions on each of these subjects were taken in this sequence. Managerial and assistant canteen staff were forthwith recruited by advertisement and interview, and all appointees duly apprised of the codes of personal conduct and service expected of them. The choice of Mr Jayatileke as canteen manager turned out to be a happy one. He was young and dedicated and was soon to become a trusted associate of the committee. is leadership within the canteen was executed with courtesy and a serene authority that belied his years.

Meanwhile a sum of Rs 3,000 was drawn from University funds under the agreement, and was spent on the acquisition of the necessary cutlery and crockery (with provision for breakages of the latter), and on initial stocks of sugar, tea, cigarettes, and the like.

When all this was accomplished, and the necessary structural changes were effected, a canteen service steered by a representative committee, henceforth to be known as the Canteen committee (C. C. ) of the Faculty, was firmly in place.

To be continued- Part 4: The Inner Circle

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Canteen Story - Part 2 : Opening moves - research and report

Part 2 of "The Canteen Story" written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz is published today. Use the link below to access Part 1.

Part 2. Opening moves - research and report

As a first step volunteers from this body were posted with permission at the service counter of the canteen for successive short periods of time to maintain a running time-demand tally through each day, over a span of one working week. From this data, reliable estimates of demand over prescribed intervals of each day of the week were readily extracted.

Detailed tea production studies were next undertaken by actual experimentation under normal canteen conditions within the canteen itself; key objectives in the exercise being quality control and production costing. These studies revealed some facts in direct conflict with the prevailing wisdom in 'experienced' canteen- management circles in the University! 

The data gleaned from these separate exercises were demonstrably reliable and served to form the basis of a feasibility report whose preparation was entrusted to the three student initiators in our small group, and which was awaited by the rest with anticipation and growing excitement.

The report turned out to be a carefully crafted, optimistic, and wholly persuasive document which established beyond doubt that the canteen services as envisaged, and all its running costs, and its entire wage commitment, were sustainable by profits from tea alone, provisional on a grant of short-term borrowing rights with a cap of Rs 5000.00, for initial investments in service equipment such as cutlery, crockery, and the like.

This document was forwarded unchanged, to the Vice-Chancellor through the Dean Engineering, for their joint approval of both the project and the requested drawing rights. The Vice-Chancellor, Mr M. J. Perera, supported the idea but insisted that full repayment of loans within six months be indemnified by acceptable guarantees.

In this dilemma, the chairman of the nascent committee offered him his personal guarantee as a token of his own faith in the project. This was accepted, and the project was truly launched.

Continued: Part 3: The first Canteen Committee (C.C.) - its composition and preliminary activities

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Canteen Story - By E.F. Bartholomeusz - BIRTH OF AN IDEA

From today we serialise "The Canteen Story" written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz


The three young men who walked into my room one uneventful evening in the late 1960's evidently had matters of importance on their minds. To my initial amazement they appeared to have come to voice their dissatisfaction with the prevailing canteen services, which were provided on private contract at the time.

Those were hard times and the fare in the canteen was understandably restricted to tea and cigarettes - its mainstay - with a few peripheral offerings of foods. The service itself had deteriorated with time and become desultory and unreliable, much to the general distress. It was evident from the preliminary remarks of the evening that the limits of tolerance had been reached, and that change was on demand. Such sentiments were widespread and by no means new but had, in the prevailing apathy, long been abandoned by the members of the faculty as a topic for serious discussion. I listened to them with puzzlement and some relief tempered however, by a troubling expectation that there was more to come. Indeed, there was!

"Well, what do you propose?" It I queried in my bewilderment, and received the astonishing reply that the E-Fac student union take over the management and direction of the canteen!

"Where, then, do I come in?" I asked in alarm. 

"We seek your support and request that you present our proposal to the Dean for his approval", they replied.

"Have any of you run a canteen or any other business for a matter of that?" I asked.

"No", they answered. "Well, neither have I. Now what makes you think that we can pull off a venture like this from our present position of total ignorance?" I ventured.

There was silence at this implied rebuke and an evident disappointment that soon kindled in me a sense of regret at being unwittingly dismissive of a proposition that might, after all, prove to be a worthwhile undertaking, if rightly approached and handled with discretion.

"Let us meet in a week", I told them finally, "this needs thinking in more depth taking into account matters like objectives, management, representation, and finance."

With that we parted.

We met a week later with our separate positions on these questions, and after lengthy discussion were able to agree that:

1. Service to the E-Fac community at all levels be the central objective of this enterprise.

2. Management be fully representative. 

3. Finance be subject to regulation by a managing authority bound by strict accountability.

4. Profit be subordinated to service.

5. Conditions of service of canteen staff be those of the permanent public service in respect of leave (both casual and medical) and tenure.

And finally, as a measure of financial prudence, that:

6. Preliminary assessments of the project's viability be based on the premise that income was derived from profits from tea alone.

A scheme structured broadly to these specifications was now formulated for the Dean's approval and I was delegated to conduct this delicate negotiation.

The Dean, Professor E.O. E. Pereira, as those who knew him well might expect, was attracted to the idea but insisted on a guarantee that the academic commitments of the students involved be in no way jeopardized by this enterprise. Such a guarantee was up to the students themselves and clearly demanded their release from the more pedestrian day to day management duties. These assurances were given in terms acceptable to the Dean and finally won us his approval. The road to implementation was now open.

News of these happenings filtered through the faculty and won us valued adherents from other sectors who joined us in setting up an ad-hoc planning committee dedicated to the task of devising strategies to guide this initiative from these hesitant beginnings to implementation.

Read Part 2: Opening moves - research and report

Monday, July 14, 2014

Faculty Canteen

Dear readers of eFacMemories Blog,

I am sure all of you have fond memories of the faculty canteen that served us in many ways during our four year stay at Peradeniya.

While all most all other canteens such as WUS, Gemba etc, functioned within the University during our time, were privately run on tender basis, the faculty canteen was run by a committee comprising of staff and students of the faculty.

I think this is still the case.

Recently I received a neatly type-written account of how this canteen venture was initiated and launched in the late 60s.

This "Canteen Story" has been written by late Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz, who has been the founding Chairman of the Canteen Committee.

Professor E.F. Bartholomeusz's "Canteen Story" was sent to us by Mr Somapala Hewavitharana, who currently lives in Perth, Australia.

Mr Hewavitharana has worked as a Research Technician in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering from 1950 for 30 years until his retirement. He has been the Secretary and the Store Keeper for the Canteen Committee since its inception.

The Electrically operated cigarette lighter, that has replaced the old method of using paper to light and littered the whole area, has been one of his inventions.

The Canteen Story by E.F. Bartholomeusz will be publish in this blog over the next few days. 

-Moderator, eFacMemories