Confusion and frustration, not to mention hunger, can ruin any person’s public eating experience. For students with dietary concerns, this happens every day on campus. The members of the Student Affairs committee of Student Congress experienced these feelings firsthand last Tuesday at the Connection Cafe. During their meeting, the student senators took a recess to the cafe to clarify the issues discussed in Resolution 11-19, specifically regarding the availability of ingredients and nutritional information in the dining hall.
Their experiences verified the problems addressed in the resolution. Ingredient lists and food allergen information were no where to be found, save for a sign next to an array of sauces that read “All sauces are vegan except for Tzatziki sauce” — yet there were no labels to determine which sauce was the Tzatziki sauce. After speaking to several employees, the students were surprised to find that “I don’t know” was the common initial response to their questions about ingredients and allergens in the food. Upon further investigation, the committee discovered the one vegetarian entree offered at the veggie station for dinner: nachos.
I had the opportunity to attend the committee meeting that included the trip to the Connection Cafe last Tuesday to discuss Resolution 11-19. Surprised to receive the support and dedication from everyone on the committee, the co-authors and I could tell the committee members, especially nursing junior Zachary Murphy and social work senior Mikayla Hicks, put a tremendous amount of effort into their work. Throughout the meeting, this became even more evident, especially after our unsuccessful quest to Connection Cafe to inquire about ingredients.
“This is unacceptable!” exclaimed senior liberal arts major, Amanda Gonzales, the committee chairwoman. I found the committee’s indigence on the behalf of vegetarians/vegans (and other dietary concerns) particularly admirable and altruistic.
At the committee meeting we spent two hours with the committee to answer questions and revise the resolution. At great lengths, the committee discussed how to best present the resolution, so it would have a greater likelihood of becoming a reality. We ended up making several minor changes in the wording to minimize misunderstandings. We took out the specific clauses regarding Kosher and Halal foods to make the resolution more feasible for the university. Dining Services told the researchers that the specific processes regarding religious restrictions would be challenging for them to implement into the system. The room agreed that most, if not all, vegan foods would comply with religious dietary restrictions.
After the productive meeting, the committee invited the other co-authors and myself to come to the general body meeting to observe the discussion and voting of our resolution.
At the general body meeting Tuesday night, the pros and cons of the resolution were discussed via commentary from student senators. All of the speakers were in support of the resolution. Some of the vegetarian student senators expressed they were in favor of the resolution because of personal investment, which was great to see. But I also appreciated the sentiment from broadcast communication senior Rhett Swarb: “I’m not vegetarian or vegan, in fact I eat very horribly, and I don’t eat in the Connection Cafe. But I feel that any chance we have at enriching someone’s experience, to make it better or easier at UTA, is worth it — even if it doesn’t directly affect me. I would hate to pass by this opportunity to better a fellow student’s life.”
When it came to the vote, I personally tallied each resounding “Aye” and “Yes” with excitement and gratitude. Resolution 11-19 passed unanimously, with a final vote of 35 to 0.
Student Congress has taken significant steps towards the direction of improving campus health and sustainability, as well as honoring campus diversity, and I am proud and grateful to be a part of it.
Student Congress vice president Jeff Hazelrigs plans to upload the final revised version of the resolution to their site tomorrow morning, so check for it!