How NYU and Food-Service Giant Aramark Stumbled Into a Black History Month PR Fiasco

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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.”

Read entire article at New York Magazine