Oberlin Students Fight for 'Culturally Sensitive' Dining Hall Meals

Oberlin Students Fight for 'Culturally Sensitive' Dining Hall Meals
Flickr CC WFIU Public Radio
The latest bout of student protests over administrative insensitivity has been surfing across the Internet these past few days. The gist: After a string of protests at Oberlin College earlier this year, students are taking their demands to the campus dining halls to fight for the availability of more authentic and traditional meals from the school.

The students accused the campus dining services and Bon Appétit Management Company, the main dining vendor, of a litany of offenses that range from cultural appropriation to cultural insensitivity, according to a New York Times article.

The Oberlin Review reported that earlier this month, students protested campus dining outside of the Afrikan Heritage House because of the failure to meet the requests outlined in a petition submitted in November. The petition asked for a better selection and more quality options as well as outlining proposed meals and steps to accurately prepare their recommendations. 

The students also asked for better working conditions for the campus dining staff, saying they wanted "a guaranteed 40 hour work week, benefits for part-time workers, personal days, funding for job training and increased wages."

Farrakhan told the paper, "until you’ve worked [for] CDS, you don’t realize how rude, condescending and overbearing the managers are. And you don’t realize how much food gets thrown away. I would like to see Bon Appétit fired and replaced by something other than an international corporation." She along with other students are hoping "to see the chefs have the respect and autonomy to cook the food they love.” 

Michele Gross, director of Oberlin's dining services, said in a response to the protests on Monday that "in our efforts to provide a vibrant menu, we recently fell short in the execution of several dishes in a manner that was culturally insensitive.”

The dining staff seems to have responded with an understanding attitude to the students' concerns of cultural appropriation, the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes or practices by one cultural group from another. Others, like this article from The Daily Beast, however, weren't onboard with the protestors' demands.

Academic Fredrick deBoer voiced his opinion through his Twitter, also stating that "when you're defending the cultural authenticity of GENERAL TSO'S CHICKEN, you're a living Portlandia sketch."

Beyond just the dining hall disputes, college students across the nation have been protesting racial discrimination and a general lack of diversity on campus. In the list of demands released by Oberlin students last week, they request an annual four-percent increase in black student enrollment. 

“These are demands and not suggestions,” the document read. “If these demands are not taken seriously, immediate action from the Africana community will follow.”

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Phoebe Potiker

Phoebe Potiker is a college freshman at Ohio State University studying both Journalism and Public Affairs. Phoebe is currently a blogging intern at Cleveland Scene, covering local news stories. A graduate of Shaker Heights High School, Phoebe has resided in the East Side suburb her entire life and has been raised...
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