This year Barnard is re-negotiating its 10-year contract with its food service provider, Aramark.
Aramark is a billion-dollar corporation that profits off of the abuse of prisoners. It caters to over 500 prisons and jails nationwide and has a long rap sheet of underfeeding prisoners, serving prisoners unsanitary and sickening food, and employee misconduct.
Every Barnard student is required to purchase a meal plan, spending between $800 and $6,790 per year. Each time a Barnard or Columbia student uses meal swipes or points at one of Barnard’s dining halls, that money goes directly into the pockets of Aramark. For years, students have been given no say in the matter. We can’t opt out. Every single time we eat a meal, we are tangibly financially supporting an unethical and morally unjust corporation. Barnard students are being forced to support a corporation that has a history of committing human rights violations in prisons across the country and dehumanizing the very population it claims to serve. We’ve had no choice. We’ve had no voice.
The administration is not ignorant of Aramark’s human rights violations in prisons. It has chosen to turn a blind eye. Over the past several years, students have repeatedly voiced their discontent with Aramark, yet these concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
By employing Aramark, Barnard violates its own mission statement. How can Barnard prepare us to “lead and serve [our] society” if Barnard itself is unwilling to stand up to a billion-dollar corporation that contributes to mass incarceration? Chief Operating Officer Robert Goldberg claims that Barnard has a “commitment to the ethical purchasing of goods and services.” If Barnard actually believes in this “commitment,” then why is the administration still employing Aramark?
A simple solution is to have Barnard switch its food service supplier to Columbia Dining. We pay $593 more than Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science first-years for a lesser meal plan. CU Dining was just named the #1 college dining hall for food by The Daily Meal, while Hewitt was busy receiving a B rating in food safety. On top of this, Barnard students are constantly inconvenienced by their complicated points system versus Columbia’s dining dollars. Columbia students can use their dining dollars at Barnard cafés, but Barnard students must pay out of pocket every time we go across the street for coffee.
Based on student feedback over the past couple of months, it has become clear that Barnard students would be happier and eat healthier if our dining services were run by CU Dining. The switch is financially feasible, logistically convenient, and morally just. We demand that Barnard change dining providers to CU Dining, and we insist that, like other universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, Barnard maintain the current staff as it transitions to a new dining service provider.
Join Barnard No Aramark in boycotting all Barnard dining halls all day tomorrow, November 14. It’s time to make the administration listen. Together, we say NO to Aramark.
Note: We understand that for dietary and financial reasons, some students must have access to Hewitt. We still encourage all students to get involved by joining us in protest at the Barnard gates and signing our petition.
The author is Barnard No Aramark, a group of students opposed to Barnard’s partnership with the Aramark corporation, and the Roosevelt Institute Human Rights Center. To learn more or to get involved with the campaign, contact Tanisha Aggarwal, BC ’20, at email@example.com or Maeve Flaherty, CC ’21, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact email@example.com.