Complaints about Sodexo policies do not deserve full protest
In my high school, everyone loved to hate English 11 and Advanced Placement United States History. By “loved to hate,” I mean that people made extreme efforts to go out of their way to complain about those classes. In fact, people often spent more time complaining about the workload from the classes than they did actually doing the work. I was convinced that APUSH and English 11 were the worst classes I could possible take, a year before I was even eligible to take them.
So, naturally, I entered junior year apprehensively and with a closed mind. “Ugh, I’ll hate English 11, so why bother trying?” As for APUSH, I was so turned off by the idea of it that I didn’t even take it.
But after the first day of English 11, it became immediately clear to me that the problem was not with the class but with the complaining student body. I don’t even know from where the complaints originated, but my expectations were far from met. I entered thinking I’d have to slave my life away, but instead I had to “slave away” 30 minutes a day of only semi-interesting reading. Scary, I know.
The opinion came from a group mentality. People like to complain. People also like to hear their complaints echoed by other people. It’s validating and makes us all feel like we’re the victim of some terrible institution called “school,” “society,” “life” or what have you. Psychologists sometimes call this groupthink, when the desire to be part of a group becomes more important than critically analyzing an opinion, leading to bad decisions. It’s problematic because it closes our minds off and alters our perception illogically. I hated a class I hadn’t even seen a single assignment from—a year before I took it.
A similar group mentality has surfaced on our campus surrounding Sodexo’s food services. As first-years entered their residence halls this year, Orientation Leaders and community advisors alike uttered warnings of the horrors of Sherman Dining Hall’s menu before new residents had even put their bags down. The same thing happened to me as a first-year.
The words generated a visceral reaction and I found Sherman unappetizing before I had even eaten a single item of food. Even returning students last year found an inner hatred for Sodexo before eating a single bite of its food in its first year at Brandeis. “Sherman is not edible” was a popular phrase exchanged before Sherman had opened under Sodexo for the first time.
I found myself closing my mind off because other people were doing the same. I found myself joining the mob.
Now, I say “the mob” proverbially, but it’s worth noting that “the mob” has materialized as a Facebook group, the Sodexo Fan Club, and into a protest. While funny at times, the Sodexo Fan Club group begs to be criticized as so-called “first world problems.” The group consists of a bunch of complaints that our food isn’t prepared well enough and isn’t prepared at the right times.
The group is littered with sarcastic praises of Sodexo: “Thanks so much Sodexo for making sure David and I get all the carbs we need,” and “Praise be Sodexo … for graciously allowing me to experience what an Orwellian power dynamic truly feels like.”
While framed satirically, the Sodexo Fan Club iconifies a perverse sense of entitlement that we’ve acquired. Since when do we have the right to anything that’s being served to us? And since when is any sort of dining service comparable to a dystopian society? Being in a position of receiving servitude is a privilege and a rare one at that.
For a mostly liberal campus that prides itself on compassion toward developing nations and lauds the atrocities of leaving lights on in the bathroom or not buying “cruelty-free” shampoo, we sound like hypocrites to be complaining that some minimum-wage workers aren’t willing to work long hours or didn’t cook our pancakes just right.
It’s come to a point where those of us who actually like the dining services have to lower our eyes and voices when we say so out loud out of fear of being ostracized.
“Well, I guess it’s cool to have vegetables and protein with every meal, not everyone has that luxury” we mumble.
And yes, it is amazing that we have that. Considering that much of the American population can’t afford healthy food and has to settle for fast foods, it’s incredible that we have the luxury of vegetables and proteins.
Protest can be a beautiful and incredibly inspiring means of change. On Feb. 1, 1960, four African-American students sat patiently through threats and denied service at the white’s only Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C. They wanted to dismantle structural segregation and racism, and they weren’t going to wait around for someone else to do it.
It seems that some students at Brandeis have decided that we have our own protest-worthy cause. On Monday, students sat in at Usdan Student Center to show Sodexo that they want change and that they aren’t going to wait around for someone else to do it. While seemingly admirable, the reasoning behind the protest is incredibly petty. We’re acting like our lack of coffee on Sundays is a structural system of injustice, and it’s disgusting. I also can’t help but wonder if this protest happened because the cause warranted it or because the people organizing it want to say that they organized a protest.
Group mentalities are dangerous, and in our case, flat out disgusting. Entitlement is disgusting, and we should be better than that.