February is Black History Month and to celebrate, Aramark, NYU’s food service provider, served up a meal of racial stereotypes. This is just the latest example of Aramark’s mismanagement, as the company has proven time again to be immoral and negligent — bugs in prison food, missing meals in nursing homes, rats in our dining halls. Aramark has issued countless public apologies when faced with scrutiny, but recent events prove that the company has made no meaningful improvements to its services or management. It is time for NYU to end its contract with Aramark and seek a food provider with integrity.
Black History Month is supposed to be a time to honor African-American culture and achievement throughout history, yet Aramark showed nothing but disrespect when serving meals based on racial stereotypes to mark the occasion. Aramark’s mistake was not even its first of the month. At Loyola University Chicago, then at NYU, Aramark served food such as collard greens and fried chicken, but also Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water — both beverages with strong racist implications. Aramark fired the two employees responsible for the menu and is mandating sensitivity training, among other measures, going forward. However, this is not enough. The fact that this was a repeated error by Aramark shows that the responsibility does not lie with a single individual but rather the institution as a whole. Ignorance is not only an inadequate excuse for such clearly racist behavior, but it is also an unbelievable one. This is one of countless missteps by Aramark that together show it is not a company our university should continue to support.
Aramark’s Black History Month menu is just the latest transgression committed by Aramark. In December, Lipton Dining Hall’s manager and chef were both fired after abysmal health inspection results, including the discovery of rat feces in the dining hall. Aramark has also capitalized on the privatization of American prisons, and has cut corners by serving inedible food to inmates like rotten chicken, rat-nibbled cake and meals that had been taken out of the trash. Its contracts with private prisons run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, Willow Point Nursing Home in Broome County, NY is considering ending its contract with Aramark. The nursing home allegedly received late meals, food at improper temperatures and did not receive the alternative meal options it paid for.
Time after time, Aramark’s wrongdoings have been glossed over and their apologies have been accepted, but the line must be drawn somewhere. Racial stereotyping on multiple college campuses is unacceptable, and in combination with other transgressions, this warrants termination. Although Aramark has made wide public apologies, it should be judged on its actions. Serving racially stereotyped food during Black History Month is another clear indicator that Aramark’s values as a company are misaligned. NYU needs to respond accordingly, not with words, but with its wallet. It is time to sever ties with Aramark.
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