When I attended Oberlin College—a mere five years ago—I watched two students in paper-white jumpsuits force-feed themselves rotten vegetables and take turns puking on each other. They chose to spew bile-streaked rainbows right in front of the central library just before finals, so anyone wishing to study had to see, hear, and worst of all, smell their art project. I was far from the only innocent bystander to nearly join the retching.
That image sprang to mind this week when the Internet worked itself into a froth about a small group of Oberlin students demanding, among other changes, food that does not trample upon the religions and cultures of various countries. Whatever you think of the merits of their arguments against malformed banh mi and offensive beef tandoori—and the web is currently abuzz with derision for them—it’s not the worst way students could spend their time. They could, for example, be vomiting on each other. Or smoking weed. Or binge-watching Netflix. Or making naked snow angels. (Yes, I saw this happen.)
I’m not defending or siding with the students’ calls for more culturally sensitive food in the dining hall. I myself ate in Oberlin’s co-ops, where options ranged from undercooked, flavorless rice and beans served up by a bored hipster to some of the most fantastic dishes I’ve ever had, cooked by classmates who went on to be professional chefs. It was the first time I ever thought about where my food came from, how it was grown, or who prepared it.