Yale Hospitality cuts number of Black History Month dinners from nine to four nights
Yale Hospitality wrote to the News that the change was made to reduce long lines in the dining halls, yet the News spoke with four students who voiced their disappointment in the decision.
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Yale Hospitality reduced the number of Black History Month dinners this year from nine to four nights, a change which has been met with disappointment from students and administrators.
In February last year, the dinners took place on nine days spread across the month, with either one or two dining halls hosting a Black History Month menu on the same night. This year, Branford, Saybrook, Jonathon Edwards, Davenport and Pierson dining halls will host their dinners on Feb. 15; Silliman, Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges will have theirs on Feb. 22; and Berkeley, Grace Hopper, Ezra Stiles/Morse and Trumbull will have their dinner on Feb. 29. Timothy Dwight College’s will occur on Feb. 28.
“The act of reducing the dinners to only three days of the month, with no notice or garnering of student opinion or interest, [not only] only works to minimize the good food we get to eat, but also devalues and minimizes the culture and feelings of belonging of Black students and workers on campus,” Stephanie Owusu ’24 told the News. At the time of this quote, Timothy Dwight College had yet to move its Black History Month dinner.
Timothy Dwight’s dinner was rescheduled due to an event conflict, meaning that the dinners were originally supposed to be spread across three days.
Timeica E. Bethel ’11, dean of the Afro-American Cultural House, wrote to the News that students at the Af-Am House have been talking about and looking forward to the Black History Month dinners for months.
“While all 14 dining halls are still participating, the experience won’t be the same,” Bethel-Macaire wrote. “Last year, students were able to enjoy nine meals across the different dining halls that reflected the breadth of the Black diaspora; now, they have to choose between colleges and only get to enjoy three.”
The Black History Month dinners began in 2022, with Yale Hospitality collaborating with Black staff members to bring their personal recipes to the dining hall menus. The featured recipes showcased the foods from the Black diaspora and highlighted the identities of many Black team members.
The change was made due to the meals’ popularity resulting in long lines and some colleges running out of food last year, according to Stacey Hepburn-James, senior director of residential dining.
“Knowing how popular and well received these events are, we want to alleviate the bottleneck, and give all students ample time and venues to enjoy their meals which the teams worked so hard on,” Hepburn-James wrote to the News.
Hepburn-James also wrote that Yale Hospitality works with all heads of the residential colleges, assistant directors of operations and their dining teams to curate the Black History Month dinners.
Yet, four students expressed concern over the consolidation of Black History Month meals, emphasizing the benefits the dinners provide.
A student worker with Yale Hospitality, who wished to remain anonymous due to employment concerns, told the News that they were “surprised” by the choice to reduce the number of nights with Black History Month meals. The student worker said that they were not officially informed of the choice by Yale Hospitality before the information was publicly available.
Troi Slade ’26 told the News that the Black History Month dinners were one of the only meals that felt like home and found the change to be “disheartening.”
“Although the dining hall food could never compare to home-cooked meals,” Slade told the News, “it was the closest thing to home in a culinary form that Yale had offered me.”
Owusu also emphasized the unique opportunities the meals provide for the Black community at Yale to celebrate their culinary tradition and for the broader Yale community to engage with food rooted in Black culture.
“I think [the new schedule] reduces the opportunities for students to interact with Black history, especially students who may not have been exposed to certain cuisines before coming to Yale,” the student worker said.
The student worker added that they hope there will be a restoration of the old schedule for next year’s Black History Month dinners as they said it featured more opportunities for students to engage with Black cuisine.
Madeleine Keenan ’26 told the News that she felt the meals were a highlight of the University’s celebration of Black History Month and that she was “worried” that this year will not have the same experience of Black students coming together to one dining hall.
She also said a possible solution to the busy dining halls could have been increasing the amount of food or making the dining hall hours longer when they were hosting a Black History Month dinner.
Black History Month was federally recognized in 1976.