Post Classifieds

University food policy results in frustration

By Phil Gallagher
On January 21, 2014

Correction appended.

Following student complaints on Facebook, Jay DeGioia, the director of campus dining services, confirmed to the Justice that Sodexo, the University's new provider of dining services, does not serve pork or shellfish in University dining halls. The lack of pork and shellfish on campus is in compliance with an existing University policy and to the disenchantment of some University students.  Jewish dietary law forbids the consumption of pork and shellfish, which are not considered kosher and cannot be eaten or even come into contact with kosher food. 

DeGioia wrote in an email to the Justice that he understood the University's policy to be that pork and shellfish are not served in University dining halls, although they can be served by student groups on campus, by vendors such as Quiznos and Dunkin' Donuts and Sodexo food trucks.

"[D]uring the bidding process it was clear that not allowing pork or shellfish to be served in the dining halls would be part of the new contract," wrote DeGioia. Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid confirmed in an email to the Justice that the University has had "a longstanding policy" prohibiting the sale of pork or shellfish in dining halls. De Graffenreid wrote the policy is part of the University's "heritage as a Jewish-sponsored institution."

Despite the previous existence of the policy, many students recall being able to purchase pork and shellfish in the Usdan Café as recently as last year when Aramark was the dining services provider. Michael Piccione '15 wrote in a Facebook message to the Justice that he had ordered scallops at Usdan Café "whenever [they were] offered" when Aramark was the dining services provider. "I don't feel as if a coherent explanation has been given as to why they are not offered this year, and I don't think their removal can be justified without polling the student body to see what we want to see served," he wrote.

Joe Lanoie '15 expressed a similar frustration. "[P]ork was the meat of choice for weekends, and I loved it. Now there is turkey ham and turkey bacon, but that is not what I pay for. I pay for pork ham and pork bacon, since the meal plan is mandatory where I live," he wrote in a Facebook message to the Justice.

"[T]he demands of the nonkosher community should not be neglected in the name of sensitivity," he further commented.
De Graffenreid explained that she was unfamiliar with these accounts. "I don't know what the situation was with Aramark," she wrote.

Class of 2017 Senator David Heaton, the chair of the Senate Dining Committee, and Student Union Vice President Charlotte Franco '15, both expressed a desire to see the policy overturned in an interview with the Justice. "Over Facebook, there's kind of been a recent uproar the past couple of days about shellfish not being served on campus along with pork products as well, and we are addressing that," said Heaton in an interview with the Justice.

Franco expressed concern about the University representing the dietary interests of a wide array of students. "We're an institution that prides ourselves on being diverse and being open to the community and really fostering a larger sense of diversity, and I think that really needs to be expressed in the meal options," she said in an interview with the Justice.

In 1987, then-University President Evelyn Handler introduced pork and shellfish to the Usdan Café and Usdan Boulevard, according to a Sept. 3, 1987 article in the Justice. In that article, then-University Chaplain Rabbi Albert Axelrad affirmed his comfort with the University serving pork and shellfish. "It is important that everyone feel at home at Brandeis; if some Brandeisians want shellfish and pig products, that deserves to be satisfied," he said, although he strongly objected to future University plans to expand the sale of pig and shellfish into Sherman Dining Hall, where kosher food is served. The University later backed away from those expansion plans, according to an article in the Justice from Oct. 20, 1987.

The new cuisine was met with resistance from some students, faculty and donors in the University community and Handler faced accusations of taking the Jewish identity out of the school. An article in the New York Times from April 25, 1988 indicates in response to the new dining options, a group of students "unveiled three shanties to represent the homes of the three little pigs in the children's fairy tale."

Noam Cohen '16, the president of the Brandeis Orthodox Organization, said in a phone interview with the Justice that the prohibition on serving pork and shellfish had little impact on the BOO community. "From a BOO perspective, I think that we, members of the BOO community, really focus more on having more kosher options in University dining," he said. "I think that really the members of the ... Orthodox community don't really care about what is served in the non-Kosher eating establishments on campus," he added.

Before the prohibition, it was possible that pork and shellfish products could come into contact with kosher-style foods, which are foods without a kosher certification, in Usdan and the non-kosher section of Sherman. Rabbi David Pardo, the co-director of the Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, expressed his belief in a phone interview with the Justice that the prohibition could benefit Jewish students who eat in all the campus dining halls but may specifically refrain from eating pork and shellfish and prefer that their food not come into contact with those forbidden foods. Rabbi Elyse Winick '86, the University's Jewish chaplain, could not be reached for comment by press time. 

Editor's Note: The online version of this article has been updated to clarify that Jewish dietary law forbids the consumption of pork and shellfish.

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