Oberlin students rail against dining services

Posted at 8:03 PM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-22 20:10:01-05

Oberlin College students say college food is culturally insensitive.

According to an article published in the liberal arts college newspaper, The Oberlin Review, some students are specifically upset over modifications made to traditional Asian cuisine.

And last week, reported that one dining hall served meat in a dish labeled vegetarian.

Bon Appétit is the food service management company for Oberlin College’s Campus Dining Service. The Oberlin Review reported the company uses traditional Asian dishes as inspiration to increase the availability of diverse dishes for students. However, Bon Appétit's substitutions and use of available ingredients are why students feel the foods are a misrepresentation of their cultures.

The Oberlin Review reported that instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the traditional Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich, the dining services used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw. The college newspaper also reported that the sushi bar featured under-cooked rice and a lack of fresh fish, which one student stated was disrespectful, as sushi is highly regarded in Japanese culture.

Diep Nguyen, a College freshman from Vietnam, told The Oberlin Review "that Bon Appétit, the food service management company contracted by Oberlin College, has a history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines. This uninformed representation of cultural dishes has been noted by a multitude of students, many of who have expressed concern over the gross manipulation of traditional recipes."

Richard Tran, a Vietnamese-American College senior, also "suggested that Bon Appétit look into the history and original recipes of the foods they are trying to make, as there are food taboos within cultures they should avoid,” The Oberlin Review reported.

A Bon Appétit spokesman told ABC News, “We appreciate the feedback we have received from Oberlin students. Our chefs are working hard to offer culturally sensitive menus that will appeal to the Oberlin community.”

While some on social media are dismissing students’ sentiments, school officials are taking the matter seriously.

Michele Gross, Director of Dining Services at Oberlin College, told ABC News, “In our efforts to provide a vibrant menu, we recently fell short in the execution of several dishes in a manner that was culturally insensitive. We are committed to making sure these missteps don't happen in the future. We have met with students to discuss their concerns and hope to continue this dialogue.”