Students at a liberal Ohio college are voicing outrage over the fried chicken, sushi, General Tso’s chicken and Vietnamese sandwiches served in the school cafeterias, saying the cheap knockoff dishes are “insensitive” and “culturally inappropriate.”
Students at Oberlin College — which happens to be the alma matter of ultra-liberal actress Lena Dunham — are writing to the school’s newspaper to complain about the meals and are demanding meetings with campus dining officials and the college president.
Among the complaints were a student’s claim that the General Tso’s chicken at one of the campus dining facilities was steamed instead of fried.
Prudence Hiu-Ying, a sophomore from China, told the Oberlin Review that the steamed chicken dish did not resemble the popular Chinese dish. She described it as “so weird that I didn’t ever try it.”
It may be worth noting that General Tso’s chicken is not actually a Chinese dish. Although it is commonly found in chinese restaurants, the deep-fried, ginger-garlic chicken dish got its start in the U.S.
Another student complained about the banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches served with cole slaw instead of pickled vegetables, and on ciabatta bread instead of the traditional French baguette.
“It was ridiculous,” Diep Nguyn, a freshman student from Vietnam told the Oberlin Review. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”
Other students complained about the “culturally appropriative” sushi served at the school’s Dascomb Dining Hall.
Tomoyo Joshi, a college junior from Japan, said the undercooked rice and lack of fresh fish in the sushi rolls is “disrespectful,” according to the Oberlin Review.
“When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as the culture,” she said. “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”
The school’s dining services management said the dishes were a result of Bon Appetit’s, the food service management company contracted by Oberlin College, foray into nutritional diversity. The food service company is increasing their cultural cuisine offerings in an attempt to diversify students’ opinions in taste and flavor profile, the school newspaper reported.
Earlier this month, Oberlin’s black student union staged a protest outside the Afrikan Heritage House, an on-campus dorm, demanding one of the cafeterias make fried chicken a permanent feature on the Sunday night menu and provide more vegan and vegetarian options, the Oberlin Review reported.
Their petition also outlines a list of proposed meals, offering authentic food ideas, recommendation on how to properly prepare food and reduce the amount of cream used in dishes because, as stated in the petition, “Black American food doesn’t have much cream in it,” the school newspaper reported.
Students also protested for better treatment of dining service employees at the school, demanding “a guaranteed 40-hour workweek, benefits for part-time workers, personal days, funding for job training and increased wages.”
And the Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism joined the food fight last week after students discovered that the tandoori, a traditional Indian dish, contained beef.
“Consuming beef was considered sacrilegious among Hindus,” society President Rajan Zed told the Chronical-Telegram.
Campus dietitian Michele Gross told the Oberlin Review this week the first meeting between college officials and dyspeptic students went well, and changes are being implemented to address all concerns.