Friday, March 13, 2009

Students Demand Food!

by Caleb T. Maupin
Berea, OH

Richard Durst, president of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, claims to have served in Vietnam alongside Bob Kerrey, the president of New School University. Both went on orders from the U.S. government to repress the Vietnamese people and their resistance.

Durst and Kerrey are once again repressing justified resistance—this time from students at the institutions of higher education they have directed.

New School students who opposed Kerrey's policies occupied the cafeteria for 30 hours in December. The students demanded more involvement in decision making and recognition of the campus workers’ union. The students’ demands were met and Kerrey resigned from his post as interim-provost.

Durst is now the target of a campaign organized by B-W students for a basic human right: the right to eat. Instead of having a meal plan, like most colleges in the U.S., through which students are assured three decent meals a day, Baldwin-Wallace deposits an amount of money on a campus debit card known as the Jacket Express Card.

When this money runs out, students must pay out of their own pockets for any additional expenses. Financial aid cannot legally cover the additional costs. Students are expected to eat for $4 a day. If the food prices were reasonable, this would be realistic, but they aren’t. The director of auxiliary services at B-W, David Jensen, even confirmed in an e-mail that the average cost of purchases during meal times is sometimes as high as $5.56 and this average includes students who buy only beverages or single items.

Students whose cards have run out and whose parents do not have the resources to add more money have had to steal food. The response of the college to the food stealing has been punishment. When some concerned students approached the cafeteria regarding the problem, they were told that the youth needed to “take responsibility for their actions” and that the $4 allowance was somehow reasonable.

In response, several students—including three members of the B-W chapter of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST)formed the Baldwin-Wallace Food Justice Council. The group recruited using the Internet and, within 48 hours of announcing its existence, had 142 online supporters, all of whom were B-W students, faculty or alumni.

Members of the council got unanimous support when they distributed leaflets to other students face to face. Students happily grabbed stacks of leaflets to give to their friends. Every dorm on the campus was covered.

Attempts were made on the Internet to redbait one of the group’s founders for being an “anti-Zionist communist.” This failed to stop the group’s growing support. The council still maintains over 140 members on Facebook.

A meeting has been called for March 19 at 9 p.m. in Ernsthausen Hall at Baldwin-Wallace at which students will discuss plans to challenge President Durst when he gives his address on the college budget at an upcoming date. A petition is being circulated among the student body that will be delivered to the campus authorities in a future mass demonstration.

The B-W Food Justice Council has also unanimously voted to endorse the Bail Out the People marches on Wall Street on April 3 and 4.

Just as the Vietnamese people drove Durst and his fellow imperialist occupiers out of Vietnam, the Baldwin-Wallace Food Justice Council hopes to be victorious and win the basic right to eat for the students at Baldwin-Wallace College.

The Food Justice Council can be contacted at

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