How NYU and Food-Service Giant Aramark Stumbled Into a Black History Month PR FiascoBreaking News
tags: racism, Black History Month, food history, university
Last February, a rather intense controversy erupted at New York University over the menu offered by one dining hall as part of a Black History Month celebration. “Black History Month Menu at N.Y.U.: Kool-Aid, Watermelon and Controversy,” went the memorable New York Times headline. As reporter Maggie Astor explained, students were offended that, for a special theme menu, the Weinstein Passport Dining Hall featured “barbecue ribs, corn bread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water.” The story was soon picked up by other large outlets, including CNN and the Independent.
Within 24 hours, Andrew Hamilton, the president of NYU, issued a stern apology. The decision by Aramark, the food-services corporation that ran the dining hall, to serve those dishes “was inexcusably insensitive,” he wrote. “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.” Aramark was similarly decisive: “Employees at NYU who acted independently and did not follow our approved plan for the celebration of Black History Month have been terminated and are no longer with the company.”