In February 2018, workers at the University of Pennsylvania's Falk Dining Commons celebrated Black History Month by serving students Southern cuisine, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.
But this year — due to backlash fears — the school told the dining workers that the longtime Southern cuisine tradition was no more, the paper said.
Troy Harris, a Falk Dining chef since 2000, told the paper that school officials said "they didn't want to offend nobody, but I feel like the only ones feeling offended is us."
Pam Lampitt — Penn Dining director of business services and hospitality services — told the paper in an email that the Southern cuisine tradition was nixed due to incidents at other schools such as Loyola University Chicago and New York University that have "mishandled" Black History Month dining hall menus.
Last year, Loyola and NYU served items stereotypically associated with black culture (e.g., fried chicken, Kool-Aid, etc.) which led to student anger and public apologies, the paper said.
Students protest anyway
If Penn officials figured avoiding cultural stereotypes on a dining hall menu would quell student complaints, they were wrong.
The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote in a follow-up piece that 15 student groups gathered Monday afternoon "to stand in solidarity" with the dining hall workers over the school canceling their traditional Black History Month menu.
"The reason we're all out here today is because Penn has failed to acknowledge Black History Month this year when it has in the past, and we've been organizing this with the dining hall workers because we really want to show how much we appreciate them," said studentJanine Liu, a member of Penn Student Power, the paper noted.
Harris — who reached out to students to help organize the outdoor gathering, the paper said — made his voice heard as well.
"We're not just workers, we're human too, and we have a history behind us too, not just serving food," he said, according to the paper. "So I feel like everybody coming together now, this is a strong bond, and if we keep it strong like this we tackle any matters together."
Maribel Davila — a Wharton business school student and communication chair of Penn First, a student group that "serves first-generation, low-income students," the paper said — was fully behind the dining hall workers.
"Penn First is in full support of the appreciation and recognition of historically marginalized people and we believe our dining hall workers have the right to celebrate Black History Month and their history without university intervention," Davila said, according to the paper.
The College Fix)