Outrage Over ‘Insensitive’ Black History Month Meal At NYU

A meal served at NYU during Black History Month was deemed racially “insensitive” and resulted in two Aramark employees being fired. The report claims the cooks are African-American, though Aramark has not confirmed this.

Per CBS News:

A racially insensitive menu for a Black History Month meal at New York University has led to a company apology and workers being fired. According to The New York Times, NYU President Andrew Hamilton said it was “inexcusably insensitive” for a food service company to feature barbecued ribs, corn bread, collard greens, and beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water.

Sophomore Nia Harris, who is black, said the head cook dismissed her objections and told her black employees planned the menu. She posted about the menu and her experience on Facebook, saying she “was lied to, placated, and ignored.”

“In 2018 I literally had to explain why displaying watermelon and koolaid in celebration of Black History Month was not only racially insensitive but just ignorant,” she wrote.

Nia Harris took to Facebook to voice her displeasure with regards to the meal.

Aramark issued a statement with regards to the issue:

We have zero tolerance for any employee who does not adhere to our values or contradicts our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. 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. We are extremely disappointed by this regrettable situation and apologize to the entire NYU community and communities everywhere for their insensitive and offensive actions. We are re-training all our NYU campus employees to ensure an incident like this is not repeated.

NYU President Andrew Hamilton also issued a public apology:

We were shocked to learn of the drink and food choices that our food service provider — Aramark — offered at the Weinstein dining hall as part of Black History Month. It was inexcusably insensitive. 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.

In response, Aramark has suspended the director of Weinstein dining, is investigating how this happened, will be putting in place sensitivity training for staff, and has rightly issued an apology:

“We apologize for an inexcusable menu mistake that occurred at Downstein. We are extremely disappointed by the insensitive and offensive actions taken by one of our employees who did not follow policy and processes. The individual acted independently in a way that runs counter to our values and compromised our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have suspended the employee pending a full investigation. We are also re-training all employees to ensure a regrettable incident like this is not repeated. Again, we apologize for the mistake and commit to do better in the future.” — Victoria Pasquale, Regional Vice President, Aramark

We are grateful to the students who brought this to the attention of the University. We are extremely dissatisfied with Aramark’s actions in this instance. The drink and food choices for this meal were not discussed with NYU beforehand. NYU’s dining administrators will insist that Aramark put in place a mechanism to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s episode, such as consulting the existing student advisory body and campus cultural groups about the menu for special events.

It will be interesting to see if Aramark confirms the two employees who planned the meal were black. We will follow the story to see if that does happen.

Check out some of the reactions on Twitter:

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