By Katie Manko
Students and staff members met on Friday to discuss last week’s contentious Martin Luther King, Jr. Day dinner.
Isabelle Edwards ‘15, whose blog post about the Martin Luther King Day dinner on the Union website sparked this controversy, said that the discussions helped her and other upset students gain some clarity about the situation.
“What was truly upsetting was the lack of context with the meal and the student body’s reaction to the meal, not so much the types of food being served,” Edwards explained.
Along with Edwards, those in attendance at the meeting were Black Student Union (BSU) representatives; Senior Director for Campus Diversity and Affirmative Action Dr. Gretchel Hathaway; Director of Campus Religious and Spiritual Life Victoria Brooks; General Manager of Dining Services David Gaul; manager of West Dining Hall Eric Bush; and Director of Operations for Dining Services Callie Stacey.
“[The meeting] helped us to recognize that we have a part in educating as much as we do in providing good food,” Gaul said.
Dining Services says they will now include informational flyers and table tents along with any culturally-themed meals. Additionally, student organizations will have the opportunity to be involved in these educational efforts.
“There are too many negative connections between fried chicken and African Americans that, unless you did the education behind why, it can come off to students in a flippant way,” explained Hathaway. “I think [Dining Services] is going to kick it up a notch.”
The group in attendance at the meeting came to a consensus that education along with any culturally-themed meals is the best option.
“We have all these multicultural organization on campus,” said Suraiyah Abdul-Wahab ‘13, a BSU member. “What is their purpose if we aren’t using them, especially for something like this?”
Naika Joseph ‘12, another BSU member, agreed. “It was good to see how open and receptive the Dining Services workers were.”
Going forward, BSU plans to table in West Dining during February, which is nationally recognized as Black History Month, to keep students informed about thematic meals such as the one on Martin Luther King Day.
“Yes, we love diversity. We love diverse kinds of food,” said Hathaway. “Now let’s get some education.”
Students met with Director of Multicultural Affairs Jason Benitez beforehand to prepare for the summit meeting.