In honor of a monthlong celebration of black history, residents in the Weinstein Passport Dining Hall were offered food and drinks that included watermelon flavored water, ribs, and collard greens.
“I walked into Downstein and noticed that the them was Black History Month. The menu is interesting with ribs, collard greens, cornbread, smashed yams, and macaroni and cheese,” Nia Harris, a sophomore at NYU, aired her frustration via a Facebook Tuesday (Feb. 20).
But, as Harris noted, the “most interesting” part of the menu were the drink options: red Kool-Aid and watermelon flavored water.
After doing a little investigating to find out who chose the menu, Harris was put in touch with the head cook, who told her that he collaborated with “cooks who are black” to come up with the food and drink choices. She felt as if he was placing blame on black employees to absolve himself of responsibility.
“Not only is this racially insensitive, this was just ignorant,” she concluded. “In 2018, there’s no excuse for intentional and deliberate disrespect. There’s no reason that anyone should be acting like they had no clue that this was insensitive. The Kool-Aid and watermelon were both removed. However, what does it say about our university if we just take this down and sweep this under the rug? This school prides itself on being diverse and inclusive. Yet, we are displaying stereotypical food for Black History Month and telling black students that this is not racially insensitive.”
NYU President Andrew Hamilton released a statement expressing shock over the “inexcusably insensitive” menu, before shifting the blame to the school’s food distributor, Aramark. “We were shocked to learn of the drink and food choices that our food service provider — Aramark — offered at the Weinstein dining hall as part of Black History Month,” Hamilton said in a statement to Washington Square News. “It was inexcusably insensitive. That error was compounded by the insensitivity of the replies made to a student who asked Aramark staff on site how the choices were made.”
For its part, Aramark is “investigating” the situation, and suspended its director of dining for Weinstein. The company also issued an apology for the “inexcusable mistake,” and announced that it will be “re-training all employees” to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
“We are disappointed by the insensitive and offensive actions taken by one of our employees who did not follow policy and processes. The individual acted independently in a way that runs counter to our values and compromised our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”