Dining Services ignores student needs by neglecting to serve kosher food, incurs unfair dining fees to students

0
702
COURTESY IMAGE / WM.EDU

March 2, 2015 — my fifteenth birthday — I promised myself that I would try my very hardest to make sure that everything I put into my mouth was as kosher as humanly possible.

At the time of publishing this article, the five-year anniversary of that “covenant” that I made with myself to be more conscientious of the covenant made between Moses and G-d as told in the Torah is now passed. I’d like to think that I’ve been 99.9 percent successful with it — at least with what I have knowingly consumed. With that in mind, I will admit one thing: it has been exponentially more difficult to follow the demands of kashrut while living on campus these past two years.

it has been exponentially more difficult to follow the demands of kashrut while living on campus these past two years.

I’m not even talking about how the Charedim think of kashrut with their strict notions of ritual slaughter, only eating at kosher restaurants, supervised preparation of food by a religious official, etc. I’ve realistically limited myself to the rules that I know are mostly possible on a college campus: no pork, no shellfish and don’t mix dairy with meats. Did I mention that even following those rules strictly has been really difficult? No, I don’t have these secret cravings for shellfish and pork — to be honest, I have an aversion to the smell of seafood, and it all looks too “slimy” for consumption. However, food preparation in dining halls is shockingly, surprisingly and absurdly treyf, or the Yiddish word for things that aren’t kosher.

Whenever I look at the allergen disclosures on the food at Marketplace, a surprising amount of it at the entrée box lists shellfish. Which is a bummer because that is the closest thing to variety you see at Marketplace. Even breakfast at Marketplace has been a struggle for me because pork products are always so obviously commingled between non-pork products at the grill.

It’s difficult to be blissfully ignorant when you can see it all happening in front of your face.

My “petty” complaining aside, there are really simple solutions to the shortage of Kosher options on campus here at the College of William and Mary — and we don’t even have to be creative either.

Other colleges with larger Jewish populations have implemented whole kosher dining halls. For logistical reasons, I doubt the administration would approve such an endeavor for a relatively small Jewish population.

However, a reasonable ask is that of a kosher meal plan and a kosher dining restaurant on campus. If I’m unable to eat a large part of what’s served on campus, should not the price of my meal plan reflect that through a discounted rate?

Additionally, a kosher restaurant would be accessible to everyone on campus and would not just serve to benefit the College’s Jewish population, but also Muslims who adhere to halal — a similar but less restrictive set of dietary laws.

a kosher restaurant would be accessible to everyone on campus and would not just serve to benefit the College’s Jewish population, but also Muslims who adhere to halal — a similar but less restrictive set of dietary laws.

It’s not like this is so far outside of the capabilities of Sodexo either; they are the official dining company of a lot of universities where they are able to accommodate the needs of Jewish students through special Kosher options.

As it stands now, I’m currently living off my $400 a semester flex allowance that as of today only has about $35 left.

How did that happen?

I eat the majority of my meals outside of dining halls, yet I’m forced to spend thousands on my meal plan. I know I’ve been told that it’s expensive to be an observant Jew, but I didn’t realize just how expensive.

I know I’ve been told that it’s expensive to be an observant Jew, but I didn’t realize just how expensive.

The Mediterranean Station in the Sadler Center is a step in the right direction, but it is inconsistently open and is only treated as halal —  which as I mentioned, is similar to kosher but far less restrictive.

My friend told me this joke when we were getting dinner a few weeks ago: If the both of us were sent to prison tomorrow, at least we would be guaranteed kosher dining options. Even though we live in “prison-like” conditions in dorms like Jefferson Hall, the College didn’t even have the decency to live up to the dining standards set by prisons. Yikes.

Even though she twisted the proverbial “certified kosher, Rabbi approved, Orthodox Union approved” fork and added insult to injury by making reference to the fact that I live in Jefferson as a sophomore, her poignant point struck a C-Major chord within the confines of my soul.

Hopefully, the College can take some strides, any strides, to improve the dining experience of Jewish students on campus — we pay tuition too, you know — so that I never have to hear that joke again, but more importantly so that I can actually eat.

Email Gavin Aquin Hernández at

gaaquin@email.wm.edu.