- Daniel Cole/WSN
As students filtered into the Eisner and Lubin Auditorium at the Kimmel Center for University Life on Tuesday, Nov. 19, each received a single strip of paper that would dictate their fate for the night — the paper assigned each guest an occupation, a country, a name and a socioeconomic class. Oxfam organizers directed them to a table and issued a ration of food based on the person’s status indicated on the paper.
The social experiment was a part of NYU’s Oxfam America chapter effort to promote awareness of social inequality and the struggles of poverty called The Hunger Banquet.
LS sophomore and Oxfam secretary Lila Carpenter began the banquet by reading off names of people whose life experiences — losing or gaining a job — resulted in a change of their social class. The wealthy table was dismissed to help themselves to food first, followed by the rest of the social classes in descending wealth. The wealthy class also received the largest amount of food, while those in poverty received the least.
Carpenter said the event was important in raising awareness on campus.
“An NYU student is supposed to be a ‘global citizen’ and in order to be so, you must really be aware of global issues and the state of your fellow global citizens around the world,” Carpenter said.
The auditorium was split into several sections according to socioeconomic status. The wealthy table was placed on the stage, the upper-middle class sat at tables below the stage, the middle class sat in rows of chairs farther away from the stage, the lower class were scattered on the floor throughout the auditorium and those placed in extreme poverty sat in a circle on the floor by the stage.
Gallatin sophomore Kathryn Randolph, who was also in the upper-middle class section, said it vital for people to pay attention to global inequality and poverty.
“We’re in a position to amplify this issue but we tend to not care about it as much,” Randolph said. “And we should care.”
CAS sophomore Kelly Davis, the president of the Oxfam’s chapter at NYU, said the event aimed to illuminate the realities of social inequality for NYU students.
“We are all incredibly fortunate to go to NYU,” Davis said. “That does not mean that every student has enough money to ride through life easily by any means … regardless, many students need an awakening to understand what life is like for a significant number of people in the world,” she said.
Oxfam International is a global humanitarian organization that seeks to bring an end to poverty and injustice. The Oxfam America chapter at NYU promotes awareness of these global issues as well environmental issues.
“It’s interesting when you’re at a school like NYU, you find yourself in a bubble and tend to forget that issues like this exist,” CAS freshman Andreyka Natalegawa said, who was seated with the upper-middle class grouping.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 20 print edition. Mariya Karcelova is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]