Editorial: MSA and Dining Services need to be proactive about students needs

Daily Editorial Board

The Minnesota Student Association announced that, beginning Tuesday, University of Minnesota dining halls would feature halal and kosher options. In a Facebook post made by the group on Aug. 24, the options were made public. The shared document revealed eight certified kosher meals in residential dining halls on campus and expanded options for halal foods, such as halal chicken breasts. In the past, students have had difficulty finding appropriate dining options.

For this reason, this news comes as an important step in increasing dining options. The needs of international students or students not familiar with Minneapolis are especially important because it makes the most sense to use meals that have already been paid for. 

Muslim students who prefer to eat only halal meat had to basically become vegetarian while living in the dorms. Abdul Haseeb, an international student from Pakistan said that he has “eaten a few times in Centennial Hall and I could only eat the vegetarian foods.”

Vegans and vegetarians have been a large part of the discussion as well. With many different students in our population expressing concerns, it is clear that the change is necessary. 

MSA’s intentions and action are well-meaning, but they ought to work on being proactive as opposed to reactive. The University Dining Services usually takes a long time to respond to requests. For example, vegetarian concerns were only recently taken into account, even though concerns have been voiced for a long time. Jewish and Muslim students have been a prominent part of the University’s population for years, so the changes ought to have been made sooner. MSA has attempted to improve the dining services at the University for some time. The change in food providers is a push that they have been consistently working toward. The new options are also fairly limited. It should be an expectation from UDS to provide dining options accessible to a diverse student population.

Political events have driven many issues concerning accessibility to become divisive. To create an inclusive infrastructure available to students should not simply extend to generalizations and comments, but can be implemented in simple ways — for instance, improving dining options for students. 

While the recent changes are certainly welcome, we encourage the University to be more proactive. Students have voiced their concerns concerning accessibility for a long time. This is just one example of many that the University has a long way to go to address.

Editor’s Note: Following the publication of the editorial Tuesday morning, the Minnesota Student Association publicly launched a new subcommittee dedicated to addressing the future of the University Dining Services.