March 19, 2012

Servery Boycott

I had originally planned to write another travel log for this entry. However, something very meaningful took place tonight here at Jacobs University, and I would like to share it with all of you.

First, a little bit of background information about how the cafeteria/catering company here works. Residence halls at Jacobs are called colleges, and there are a total of four colleges. There is a servery, which is basically a mini cafeteria, in each college, and this is where students eat their meals every day.

Sunday afternoon, the students of Mercator College, where I live, learned that our head chef, Mr. Hahn, was being relegated to storage duty, apparently because of “inefficiencies in the kitchen.” However, the students of Mercator College know from personal experience that Mr. Hahn is a great chef and a very friendly person, and everyone had nothing but good to say about him. As we had lost two of our beloved serving ladies not long ago, the incident did not seem wholly¬†coincidental. The faculty resident, or College Master, of Mercator College intervened, and found out through various sources (which must remain unnamed) that the catering company, Apetito, did not want to pay Mr. Hahn’s salary, as he was a certified chef and commanded a higher salary than other chefs.¬†Learning this, the Student Parliamentarians of Mercator College decided to stand up for our beloved servery staff. We decided to boycott the Mercator College servery for the entirety of Monday, and the whole campus was notified.

Going into Monday, I didn’t really know what to expect. Would this initiative led by a handful of students from Mercator College really work? Would the student body of Jacobs be willing to inconvenience themselves to support our servery staff?

I had lunch in one of the other college serveries. I knew, as soon as I entered the servery, that students were supporting the boycott. There were many more students in that servery than there usually are, including many of my friends from Mercator and even our Mercator College Master. It took a lot longer than usual to get food, but everyone, myself included, felt that the cause was definitely worth the inconvenience.

For dinner, the Mercator College Office, which is basically an administrative office run by both professional staff and students, hosted a “Raise Up” in the spirit of the boycott. All Mercator students were encouraged to bring some food or ingredients, cook dinner together, and share our food instead of eating in the servery.

I swung by our servery on the way to the College Office. Though I had some notion of what I would see, I was still not prepared to see this:

Then, I went upstairs to the College Office, and this sight greeted my eyes:

The stark contrast between these images moved me deeply. Even though I’ve only been at a part of Mercator College for 2 months, I already feel a part of it, and I’ve gotten to know and love the servery staff whom I see every day. The bond between the staff and the regular Mercator students must be even stronger. I did not see a single Mercator student in the servery tonight. I did see some of the servery staff, and they were all smiling, despite the fact that there was not a single student for them to serve.

During the course of dinner in the college office, the news spread that Apetito, the catering company, had already contacted the Mercator Student Parliamentarians and the Food Committee of Jacobs University for an emergency meeting within 24 hours. It remains to be seen what exactly the outcome will be, but from what I have witnessed today, I’m certain that the students of Mercator College will stand by our servery staff through thick and thin.

posted in Xingjian Ma (Max)

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