Kelly Wheeler ’21
In light of the recent insect and glass-related incidents at Raymond Dining Hall, an online petition has been created to boycott Ray. Although specific demands are not listed, the petition is putting pressure on Providence College for “better food and a healthier environment.”
The petition has amassed over 2,200 supporters within several hours. Given the fact that 4,139 undergraduate students attend Providence College, this number is significant, and it may just be large enough to motivate the College to take action. Granted, this petition is not restricted to PC students, as some parents and alumni have expressed support via their signatures. However, the petition has only been circulating for a few days, so it is likely that this number will continue to grow during the upcoming weeks.
Petitions are often scoffed at for being ineffective. However, change is never accomplished by staying quiet. The supporters of this position are using their voices to urge the College to take action. Aside from Alumni Hall Food Court and Eaton Street Café, Ray is the only dining option that students have on campus. It is unacceptable that students are scared that they will find bugs or other objects in their food when eating a meal at the College’s main dining hall. Students are paying an exorbitant amount of money for their meal plans, so they should not have to inspect their food constantly before they begin eating. If students do nothing and passively allow this unacceptable pattern to continue, what would motivate the College to reevaluate their dining services?
If nothing else, the petition provides a platform for discussion about the dining services provided at PC. Both students, alumni, and parents have made comments on the petition website discussing their experiences at Ray. Conversations need to be had about what is going on at Ray. If people do not make their grievances known or share their feedback, PC will never know what they are experiencing.
Although it may seem small-scale in comparison to other forms of activism, participating in a petition is a good way to advocate for change regarding the recent dining incidents at Ray. When it comes down to it, it is always better to advocate for change and fail in the attempt than to do nothing at all.
Andrea Traietti ’21
Without a doubt, Raymond Dining Hall has improvements to make. Between undercooked chicken, bugs, mice, and now glass and parasitic worms, students have detected and reported a number of serious quality control problems. These issues are a threat to students’ health, and they need to be addressed. However, the recent petition circulating amongst students, parents, and alumni is not the most effective way to bring about change.
The first problem with the petition is its lack of clarity. The description listed on the petition site explains that Providence College is currently on a low-level plan with Sodexo. Citing how PC’s level is only slightly above the level used in prisons, the petition seems to be calling for PC to buy into a higher quality plan with Sodexo—but nowhere in the petition does it actually say this is the goal.
Is the goal to force PC to switch to a different food supplier entirely? To introduce new quality-control measures at our existing level? There is no explicit goal cited in the description.
Then, at the end of the petition, it asks respondents to boycott Raymond Dining Hall. A boycott of Ray, however, would unfortunately not work for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, Ray is the only dining hall on campus that is swipe-based and does not require FriarBucks. In general, but especially at this point in the semester, students do not have enough FriarBucks to boycott Ray completely.
Aside from the monetary issues, a boycott seems ineffective if the goal is to bring attention to Sodexo’s food quality. The other dining halls on campus, Alumni Hall and Eaton Street Café, are also run by Sodexo. Eating only at these places does not send the message to PC’s administration that Sodexo is the problem.
Lastly, it would be far more effective if efforts at reform, which are desperately needed and long overdue, were framed in a constructive, rather than overly critical manner. PC and Sodexo alike will be more responsive to specific feedback and ideas from students and parents about how to make improvements than to continued discussion about the problems the school is facing.
Furthermore, PC is already well aware of the issues at Raymond Dining Hall, as their response to recent issues has indicated. Simply continuing to list out examples of low-quality or unsafe food will not help this situation. However, specific feedback and suggestions can help give the College ideas about what students really want and how to move forward.