A student complaint over a “racially insensitive menu” for a Black History Month meal at New York University has led to firings and an apology from the food service company.
Food is now political.
Following a complaint by Nia Harris, a 19-year-old sophomore at NYU’s College of Arts and Science, NYU President Andrew Hamilton says it was “inexcusably insensitive” for the caterer, Aramark, to feature barbecued ribs, corn bread, collard greens, and fruit-flavored water—all of which were deemed to be stereotypically black.
Despite an explanation from the head cook to Harris that the employees who planned the menu were African Americans, the student—and the school—were not having it.
Following the clarification, Harris fired off a screenshot of the email exchange to Facebook, captioning it with a post that began with the words, “This is what it’s like to be a black student at New York University.”
This is what it's like to be a black student at New York University. You go to a dining hall during February and you see…
The email led to Hamilton’s statement condemning the menu, adding that it had been prepared without any input from the university, and that the “error was compounded by the insensitivity of the replies” written by the cook.
Hamilton offered an apology to the student, stating that the school’s dining administrators “will insist that Aramark put in place a mechanism to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s episode, such as consulting the existing student advisory body and campus cultural groups about the menu for special events.”
Aramark capitulated to the complaints and fired the employees responsible for the menu, stating: “We have zero tolerance for any employee who does not adhere to our values or contradicts our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
All this over soul food proposed and prepared by African American cooks.