Aramark No More

October 11, 2019

I have a question for President Baenninger: how can Drew claim it values diversity while contracting with a large corporation that profits off privatized prisons crowded with minorities who disproportionately comprise them?

 

I recently rewatched 13th, as Amrita Youth for Unity, Diversity and Harmony (AYUDH) screened the worthwhile documentary. I am Co-President of the humanitarian club, and over the summer, the thought of showing the film, which explores the existing racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system occured to me. As the film displays the logos of companies profiting off the advent of mass incarceration, my eyes could not help but scan for Aramark’s and its logo of the red, stretched-out person imitating a star, with the context of 13th warping it to become sinister and unrecognizable.

 

A Fortune 500 company that supplies food, facilities and uniforms, Aramark has been the subject of various scandals and defamation reports. Along with paying inadequate wages, firing workers for reporting unsanitary conditions and firing workers for filing Equal Employment Condition claims, Aramark has been most notably accused of neglecting prisoners and serving insufficiently nourishing food. In 2013, journalist Chris Hedges reported that in Burlington County Jail, spoiled food was being served to inmates, causing them to become ill. Several prisons across the country have also found maggots in Aramark food. Siddique Abdullah Hasan, an inmate on death row at Ohio State Penitentiary, has carried out hunger strikes due to Aramark serving cold food and meals in quantities that were half the appropriate serving size.

 

 GRAPHIC COURTESY OF TRUTHOUT.ORG                      

 

In addition to complaints regarding the quality of food, state officials have documented more than 100 Aramark employees who have been banned from prison grounds for inappropriate behavior, such as sexual harassment and use of racial slurs. An Aramark supervisor was also found guilty for attempting to arrange an assault on an inmate.

 

Large corporations such as Aramark are not held accountable, especially due to the increasing privatization of prisons over the past few decades. It is difficult to discuss the issue of mass incarceration in the U.S. since it has become so heavily monetized.

 

Several universities, including the University of Houston and University of Chicago, have dropped Aramark following collective student disapproval and action. Nearby universities such as Barnard College and New York University have followed suit. A campaign named “Barnard No Aramark” took off on the women’s college campus, producing articles in the Columbia Spectator and inciting boycotting at the Barnard dining halls. Drew should be next in disbanding from Aramark. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that this pivotal change will not transpire any time soon (although it should), given that Drew students have little knowledge about controversies surrounding Aramark. When I asked a fellow classmate about what he thought of Aramark, he responded, “What do you mean? How the food is?”

 

When I eat a meal at the Commons (since I am required to have a meal plan as a resident), I do not want to have to indirectly contribute to the merit of a multi-billion dollar corporation that is a benefactor of mass incarceration and the disproportionate imprisonment of African Americans. This is occurring on the same campus where I learn about justice and social equality.

 

Marwa is a sophomore.

 

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