Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where's the Beef?

I wonder if I exploited that blog title (a nod to an early 80's Wendy's commercial, for you youngin's) too soon?  With Meatless Mondays, there could be countless more opportunities.

I'm sorry, as soon as I realized that some people might be too young to know about the Wendy's commercial, I had to go find it for you:

Thanks for bearing with me.  It's important that pop-culture be passed on to future generations.


"Where's the beef?" is a question students at Bowdoin College in Maine were asking recently when the college decided to implement "Meatless Monday" in its on-campus dining establishments.  A number of students (I couldn't find anything indicating a specific number) were outraged, and protested the lack of animal flesh in the dining hall, including holding a beefy barbecue right outside the premises.  Apparently, they resent having their dietary choices controlled by the dictatorial college dining services.  Okay, truthfully, it was the administration as a whole, but the image of dining service dictators made me smile a little.  In any case, you can more informed takes on it here and here.

My reactions to this:

Initially, I thought something like, "Well, that's great that they've overcome apathy enough to protest something, but really?  Meatless Monday?"  Then, I thought they were somewhat justified.  What right does the college have to impose its food values on their students?  It is certainly appropriate for the school to encourage Meatless Monday the same way it might encourage wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, but to essentially force them into it?  Even if there are off-campus dining options nearby, students with a dining plan shouldn't have to pay again for a meal they want to eat.

But then, I realize that not just college students, but anyone who works anywhere or goes anywhere is subject to complying with or at least participating in the organization's values system.  Usually, no one cares until it effects something that you care about.  For example, our college's dining services uses almost exclusively plates and cups made from recycled materials, and is beginning to incorporate locally produced food when its feasible.  I think it's awesome, and so do others, but I'm sure there's a lot of folks who are quite indifferent.  No one is saying, "Darnit, I really wanted to eat my meal off of styrofoam today!" And even if people think that climate change and all this environmental stuff is a bunch of hooey and a waste, they still don't really care. But the College is imposing its environmental values on these students.  Organizations impose their values with everything they do.

In his or her comment on the Sierra Club Blog, Cris said it much more succinctly:
Is it up to the students to select the menu items on any other day? Why would they need to approve a mac & cheese dinner on Monday (or whatever they have) any more than they need to approve having hotdogs on Thursdays or not having fried chicken on Wednesdays or orange juice for breakfast, or not having cherry pie on Tuesdays!
Excellent point!  Then, when I was in college, on almost any given day, I could protest that I didn't have the right to eat tater tots with chili and cheese, one of my dining hall guilty pleasures.  And there was always at least one day a week when there was no strawberry cream cake, oh, I can still taste the sweet berries, moist cake and rich filling, kissed with fluffy whipped cream.  Wasn't it my right to eat that cake any day I wanted to?  Should I have protested by...uh, I guess eating strawberry cake right outside the dining hall?

IUP alum, I know you forgot about that cake until just now, and your mouth is watering, too!

So, I'm not sure what I think about this.  I wonder if it would ever fly where I work now.  What do y'all think?


  1. Suppose they offered a "veggie-less day" where every single thing offered had meat in it. That would probably upset the vegetarians. So, eliminating meat for us carnivores is like having a day without an entree. Limiting an entire class of food from the menu is especially pertinent for people who are on restricted diets who have to limit their carb intake, or who have wheat, gluten, soy, or peanut allergies. The caf' at IUP always had a huge selection, and I never remember a day where there wasn't at least something that I could eat. And there was always Mountain Dew or Chocolate Milk, and ice cream for Jeremy to eat with a knife.

  2. First, as one of your many fans, I am excited that I didn't have to wait any longer. I guess the pressure that I put on today, weighed heavily on your mind (LOL).I chuckled as I read "Where's the beef" because I remember that commercial fondly. As a student affairs professional, I always find it interesting what things or causes (as they affectionately see them) that our students want to lay down on their swords for. I agree that many institutions (not just colleges or universities) impose their organizational values on its members. I wonder if they have a food service committee or something similar that they asked the students feedback or polled the campus and found that there was an interest in offering more vegetarian options. I know that as our campus moves to smoke-free in the next couple of months, I wonder if our smoking population is going to protest in some manner or retreat in apathy (i.e. find creative ways to smoke on campus and try not to get caught). Hopefully, the campus administration will use the students' protest as an opportunity to stimulate dialogue with the group of protestors and campus the community because there is a real opportunity for learning in this scenario.

  3. IUP alum, I know you forgot about that cake until just now, and your mouth is watering, too!

    You totally read my mind. I was just about to SAY THAT and then you said it for me anyway!

    Also, there are people too young to remember Where's the Beef reading this? I may have to go away and Feel Old for awhile...

  4. @Amy - Yeah, I have current college students who are my friends on facebook who weren't even born until - wait for it - 1991. The "Where's the Beef" commercial came out in 1984.


What do you think?