Representatives of Dwight Hall’s member organizations voted to support advocacy for more nonanimal protein offerings in Yale’s dining halls. But while the November vote allows Dwight Hall to advocate as an institution for this culinary change, Dwight Hall will take no immediate action.
This semester, Dwight Hall has instituted a new system of resolutions, in which the student cabinet, composed of representatives and leaders from Dwight Hall member groups, and the Dwight Hall executive committee vote on motions proposed by member groups. If approved, these motions are considered part of Dwight Hall’s “core values,” according to Dwight Hall Co-Coordinator Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18. Last month, Dwight Hall approved a resolution proposed by the Yale Animal Welfare Alliance that said “in light of the enormous negative repercussions of meat consumption, we advocate that Yale Dining make a concerted effort to increase the amount of nonanimal protein in the dining halls.”
Of the eight resolutions passed at the first cabinet meeting of the semester, the resolution proposed by YAWA was the most “controversial,” according to D’Ambrosio.
“We try to represent the interests of all of our member groups, but there are a lot of interests to represent obviously,” said D’Ambrosio. “Because all member groups had an opportunity to submit resolutions, the ones who did submit them and had them successfully passed … those resolution points, those advocacy points will be our biggest focuses in upcoming semesters.”
Despite its controversial nature within the cabinet, the motion passed by an overwhelming majority of 46 votes to eight, with five abstentions. All resolutions proposed last month passed by a large majority, and five resolutions passed with no votes opposed, according to the Dwight Hall resolution vote tallies.
Matthew Coffin ’19, a member of YAWA and a Dwight Hall Freshmen-in-Service Co-Coordinator, said he wrote the resolution on behalf of YAWA because the alliance wants the power of Dwight Hall to support the organization’s efforts. Coffin said that vegetarians and vegans at Yale “feel very discouraged” and some vegans return to eating animal products again “for lack of options in the dining halls.” He added that because YAWA is a small organization, its opinions are easier to dismiss. Coffin said he hopes that the support from Dwight Hall will push Yale Dining and Hospitality to make changes in the dining halls.
According to Yale College Council Student Outreach Director Diksha Brahmbhatt ’18, who observes a vegan diet, YAWA has already met with Bob Sullivan, Director of Yale Dining Operations, to discuss greater vegan options in the dining hall. Coffin added that YAWA has been meeting with Sullivan each semester but expressed dismay at how much of a “minority voice” YAWA is on campus.
Coffin said he was hopeful that Dwight Hall could advocate for a committee in which students with dietary restrictions would work with Yale dining chefs. These students would “examine” each day of the 4-week meal rotation and determine whether the options sufficed each day of the week.
“We have advocated this to Yale Dining and Hospitality multiple times and have offered to spearhead the committee, but they’ve yet to take action on this item,” said Coffin.
Coffin emphasized that the main problem in the dining halls is a “lack of consistency for sources of protein.” The dining halls typically serve a variety of animal-based sources of protein he said, and vegans feel they have “practically nothing” to eat — which frustrates them given the cost of the meal plan.
However, Brahmbhatt, who lives and dines on campus, said she does not have trouble being a vegan at Yale. She noted that over 80 percent of Yale Dining menu options are vegan or vegetarian, and said she liked the options available. Brahmbhatt continued that the dining halls offer vegan butter, vegan mayo and lots of alternative milks.
“I eat fewer desserts, but I guess that’s a good thing,” Brahmbhatt said. “It’s gotten better.”
Still, Coffin, who is also vegan, maintained that the dining halls lack consistent vegan options, adding that while on some days the dining halls are “really great,” on other days, he still feels hungry when he leaves. Coffin emphasized that the Dwight Hall resolution does not advocate removing animal products from the dining halls entirely but rather promotes a more consistent availability of alternative options.
According to D’Ambrosio, Dwight Hall will not be doing any forms of advocacy without initiation from a member group like YAWA first.
“We’re never going to take action on a resolution without prompting from a member,” said D’Ambrosio. “It would be the group’s responsibility to initiate that. And [our action] would completely depend on what the group initiates.”
D’Ambrosio said that the existence of the resolution does not bind Dwight Hall to support every action YAWA brings up. He added that he is interested in the concrete steps YAWA plans to take, noting that Dwight Hall will stay in contact with YAWA to discuss potential action for next semester.