As reported by this publication earlier this week, many NYU students are currently demanding that the administration suspend services from Aramark, the school’s food service company. This request comes in light of multiple allegations that Aramark is engaging in extremely unethical practices in state and local prisons where the company provides meals. In the statement provided in WSN’s previous article, the administration only pointed out the broad range of services Aramark provides, stating “Aramark is a large, nationwide food services company that serves many different types of institutions, including hospitals, universities and school districts.” As a university that prides itself on a commitment to equity, this response is insufficient. NYU must demand that Aramark correct these injustices immediately. If the company fails to do so, NYU must cut ties with Aramark altogether.
A number of incidents have occurred over the years that tarnish Aramark’s reputation. In 2014, maggots were found in a Michigan prison kitchen, which resulted in 30 inmates falling ill, according to Michigan Radio. In another facility, inmates reported finding rocks in their tacos, leading to months of pain and dental surgery. These are not isolated incidents, as Prison Legal News lists multiple lawsuits exist in dozens of states accusing the company of serving food that has harmed inmates. In the state of Colorado alone, 1,300 inmates have sued the company. In addition, multiple Aramark employees have been accused of sexual harassment and drug smuggling within prisons. In fact, 176 Aramark employees have been fired by the state of Michigan for various forms of misconduct, according to Detroit Free Press. Even though Aramark is a $10 billion company with extensive resources to correct these issues, these issues have persisted for years, and this must change.
As a large client of Aramark, NYU has immense power and potential influence over the standards that the corporation should meet to prevent further issues. The university must call upon their partner to remedy this inhumane treatment of prisoners immediately, and if they refuse, NYU must find a new food service partner. Considering these allegations are coming from prisons, it is easy for the public to overlook these issues. Therefore, it is critical that a large institution such as NYU use its influence for good. One can only imagine the reaction if Aramark employees were implicated of harming NYU students in such ways.
Of course, prisons will never have excellent food or five-star conditions. However, consistently serving food with maggots and rocks is undeniably unacceptable, as are sexual harassment and drug smuggling. If Aramark fails to improve their practices, NYU will have no choice but to divest from the company. Switching food providers would undoubtedly be a very complicated process, but the extent of these allegations leaves the university no choice.
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