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SJP Sabra Boycott Gains Traction

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On Wednesday, Swarthmore Students for Justice in Palestine held a rally in Parrish Parlors with the aim of halting the sale of Sabra Hummus on campus. The rally, which followed a petition that garnered over 500 signatures, has attracted national attention from news sources like Fox News and has even been targeted by members outside of the Swarthmore community through Facebook advertisements.

The boycott of Sabra Hummus is a part of S.J.P.’s broader objective to utilize boycott tactics to help end Israeli occupation. S.J.P. supports Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, a Palestinian-led movement against Israeli occupation, techniques to target companies that support Israel. The B.D.S. website states that it is a movement invested in “ending the occupation and colonization of Arab lands” and “recognizing the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

According to an email sent out by Arunima Shiney-Ajay ’20 about the rally, the motivation for stopping the sale of Sabra Hummus on campus stems from the fact that Sabra Hummus is a joint venture between PepsiCo and the Strauss Group. An article published by The New York Times in 2010 found that the Strauss Group had formally endorsed the Israeli Defense Forces and the Golani Brigade, an Israeli Infantry brigade, on its official website. While the Strauss Group has removed their statement of support for the IDF and the Golani Brigade from its website, some speculate that ties between the groups remain.

“The Brigade has carried out countless human rights violations against Palestinians …  including arbitrary murders, assaults, detentions, home invasions, and arrests of children,” Shiney-Ajay and Killian McGinnis ’19 wrote in a recent Op-Ed for the Phoenix.

S.J.P.’s campaign against Sabra Hummus is not the first of its kind. In 2012, The Phoenix reported that S.J.P., known as S.P.J.P. at the time, was leading a boycott against Sabra Hummus.

The rally on Wednesday, which was attended by 100 students and faculty, began with Zaina Dana ’21 introducing the motivations behind the ban and the recent deaths of Palestinian protesters near the Gaza border on March 31.

According to an article from the BBC, at least 16 Palestinian protesters were killed by the I.D.F. during the protest. The protest, named the Great March of Return, is a six-week march to the border between Gaza and Israel. The primary demand of the protestors is for the return of Palestinian refugees to the state of Israel.

“Over the course of the day, I.D.F. soldiers killed 16 of my brothers and sisters and wounded hundreds more. The I.D.F. has openly admitted that they will meet nonviolent protest with violence,” Dana said. “We want to take a moment and remember why we are here today, this campaign is not just about hummus, it is about Swarthmore being complicit in the ongoing occupation of Palestine.”

Leaders of the rally held a moment of silence for those who died on the Gaza strip before S.J.P. members, Abby Saul ’19 and Gabi Rubinstein ’20, discussed the idea that Jewish liberation did not signify Palestinian oppression.

“We recognize, as proud Jews, that liberation is a key part of our Judaism, and we cannot talk about our liberation or our exodus from Egypt without talking about the liberation of all peoples,” Saul said. “We cannot spend another Passover talking about our personal liberation without talking about what’s happening in Israel and Palestine.”

Saul announced that shortly after the rally, a meeting would be held between members of S.J.P., President Valerie Smith, and Vice President of Finance Greg Brown to discuss plans for a halt on the sale of Sabra Hummus on campus. Sabra Hummus is still currently being sold on campus at Science Center Coffee Bar, Kohlberg Cafe, and Essie Mae’s. Linda McDougall, director of dining services, has not seen a change in the sales of Sabra Hummus in the past few months. According to Saul, President Smith was hesitant to make any public statements about the removal of Sabra Hummus from campus but wanted personally to look more into the matter.

“We [S.J.P.] talked about the demands of the community and why we were there. It’s not just about hummus or Sabra, but at the time we were there, we really wanted to reiterate the urgency of the situation due to the massacre that had happened just five days previously in Gaza,” Saul said. “Even though we made it clear that the community needed a concrete answer, President Smith was reluctant to do so. She wanted to do some more research on her own and did not want to drag out the decision, and she recognizes the impassioned response from the community.”

Austin Yanez ’21 decided to attend the rally on a whim but was glad he did so, because he believes it brought attention to an otherwise little known issue.

“I didn’t know about [Sabra’s] contributions to Israel until I came here. I don’t blame Swarthmore for selling their products, as I myself was also ignorant of the actions of their company,” Yanez said. “But I believe that now that students have brought this issue to light, the administration has a responsibility to act.”

The movement started with an online petition that garnered over 500 signatures from both students and faculty. Other student groups on campus, such as the Swarthmore Indigenous Students Association, Swarthmore Queer Union and Swarthmore African-American Student Society, have expressed their backing for the campaign with letters of support.  

The campaign has also garnered national attention from Fox News and The Blaze, which have published stories such as “Pro-Palestine students petition college to ban Sabra hummus from campus” and “Pro-Palestinian student group wants college to ban hummus brand over Israel ties. Yes, hummus.”

Recently, advertisements that target the S.J.P. Sabra Hummus campaign have appeared on Swarthmore students’ Facebook feeds. “Do you like hummus? Do you think Swarthmore students should have better things to do than try and ruin your lunch?” the advertisement asks.

While the origin of these advertisements remains unknown, Saul believes that these advertisements are not sponsored by someone in the Swarthmore community but by pro-Israel groups outside of the community.

“We don’t have a lot of information on it, but we believe that it’s someone outside the community who supports Israel at any cost. We think it’s a group that has had the domain for a while and has changed the name of the college depending on what college has launched campaigns,” Saul said. “We’re also keeping an eye on it, and we think it’s very interesting that someone outside that community is that concerned about what’s happening.”

Swarthmore Students for Israel have denounced the campaign against Sabra Hummus due to their belief that B.D.S. is a discriminatory movement.

“The rally was illustrative of the general tendency for S.J.P. to present extremely un-nuanced points of view on the conflict which lead people to support one-sided ‘solutions’ like B.D.S. B.D.S. is a discriminatory movement which shuts down dialogue and only moves us further from peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Matt Stein ’20, the president of SSFI, said in an email to The Phoenix. “Sabra is being targeted simply for being Israeli, which is completely wrong, and we should not stop serving it on this campus. No one is forcing any students to purchase this product, but the decision to do so should not be taken away from individual students.”

According to the B.D.S. website, boycott campaigns “target the Israeli state because of its responsibility for serious violations of international law and the companies and institutions that participate in and are complicit in these Israeli violations. The B.D.S. movement does not boycott or campaign against any individual or group simply because they are Israeli.”

Saul notes that S.J.P. is willing to opening communication between S.J.P. and S.S.F.I. but believes that it should be done so in the correct environment.

Recently, a member of Swarthmore Students for Israel approached S.J.P., at an open meeting focused on the Boycott Sabra Campaign, to learn more about Israeli occupation.

“[S.J.P.] does think dialogue is important,” Saul said. “We had members of S.J.P. schedule a meal with that individual to talk. We think that this campaign has opened dialogue on campus, but we want to make sure S.J.P. is taking concrete actions and we’re not just lost in dialogue.”

Stein also expressed reservations about creating a dialogue between the two groups but is open to the idea of it.

“As for our relationship with S.J.P., we are not opposed to having a relationship with any campus groups, but it is quite difficult to have a working relationship with a group that denies your right to exist. National S.J.P. does not recognize the right for the Jews to have their own state in their homeland, and B.D.S. is a movement which seeks to end Jewish sovereignty in Israel,” Stein said in the email. “We are open to balanced dialogue but wish to have that dialogue in a setting that at an absolute minimum accepts the most basic right, the right [of Israel] to exist.”

Though the status of Sabra hummus on campus remains unclear, Saul looks forward to SJP’s future activism and hosted events.

“We’re really excited about engaging the student body and the community and making people aware that this is not just about our campus,f but that atrocities are happening daily [in Israel and Palestine].”

Dining Services implements changes to meal plan

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Dining services will make several big changes starting next fall. Current pilot-programs will be made permanent and changes will be made to the meal plan. Grab-n-go in the Science Center and Sharples to-go will become permanent. In addition to changes that have occurred this semester, the meal plan will be changed to allow more flexibility.

Changes to the meal plan include apportioning meals per semester, as opposed to on a weekly basis, and the ability to use half of the  points in certain Ville businesses. There will be four options for meal plans: Swat, Garnet, Phoenix, and Parrish. Swat includes unlimited meal swipes and 300 points, 150 which must be used on campus. Garnet is 225 meals per semester and 500 points, 300 of which must be used on campus. Phoenix is 225 meals with 700 points, 300 to use off-campus. Parrish has 160 meals per semester and 900 points, 400 points which can be used in the Ville.

Dining services has been working with the Dining Committee and other parts of the administration during the past year to make these changes.  The committee met several times throughout the last year and included students and administration. They tried to focus on issues on campus such as an increased population, desire for more meal flexibility, and meal rush-hours due to the class schedule, according to Sierra Spencer ’18 who is a member of the Dining Committee. The pilot-programs along with the meal changes help accomplish this goal.

The changes were possible because of the new One Card program which will replace all students IDs and upgrade the technology.

“The technology is enabling us to add flexibility to our meal plans and will also lead to the ability to use smartphones as an alternative to the ID card itself for certain uses,” said Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano.

Next year the meal plan will cost $7,036, there will continue to be one price for all meal plans as there is this year. Although the students will be receiving many more points than in previous years the meal plan price will only increase by 3.5%, a typical increase for the meal plan.

“In order to maintain appropriate staffing levels and provide continued good service to the community, we have reallocated resources to provide greater flexibility in our meal plans for next year,” said Coschignano.  

The changes help to address student’s concerns about flexibility in the meal plan. There are more options for meal plans, with the addition of the unlimited and 10 meals per week plans, and allowing meals to roll-over week to week.

Spencer was impressed by the administration’s willingness and ability to make changes this semester.

“So I think because there were so many people involved who had sway in different departments it actually made it a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” said Spencer.

The committee included Dean Braun, Vice President of Finance Greg Brown and Anthony Coschignano.

Spencer said the administration made sure to provide reasons when a change was not possible. While some changes were able to happen as soon as next semester other issues will be slower. One issue that Spencer and Coschignano mentioned was the need to renovate the current eating spaces on campus.

“One of the big changes that we had talked about was having the spaces changed. So expanding Sharples and then also renovating Essie’s and I think there’s plans for both of them in the works but I guess for our time here we might not see them,” said Spencer “I would like to see more short-term change that we would actually be able to experience. But I think it’s just not possible to completely renovate Essie’s or be able to change the format in such short period of time.”

Spencer expressed concern for students lack of knowledge about dining services. Many students do not know much about the Dining Services staffing situation or understand how the prices and meal point equivalencies are calculated

“I think there’s a big gap between what students perceive, the complaints and the actual reasons behind the way things work. … I know another thing that we talked about was the point equivalent to a meal, so I think if students were more informed about why that is I think there would be less complaints but I think in general they’ve struggled to be able to have information received.”

The college has had difficulty getting information out to the students in a platform that is accessible to the students. Dining services has tried to create a mandatory orientation activity but has been unsuccessful so far. The orientation activity would try to bridge the gap between students knowledge about Dining Services and the behind the scenes of Dining on campus. The goal would be to explain how dining service works and why it works that way.

The meal plan will look different next semester and there are likely to be even more changes to Dining Services in the future.

Dining services rolls out pilot programs

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Dining services is initiating two pilot dining programs to address student concerns with the current college meal plan. The programs, which began on Monday, March 28, moved the Grab and Go option previously available in Clothier Hall to Sci 199, and added a To-Go meal option in Sharples. Both of these programs will last for a two-week trial period.

The first pilot program constitutes a change of location for the Grab and Go option from Clothier to the lobby outside of Sci 199. Grab and Go will continue to operate in the same fashion, which allows students to swipe for a meal between noon and 1:00 pm.

The second option allows students to carry out a to-go meal from Sharples, consisting of one clamshell and one drink cup. Students have to ask the Sharples cashier for a To-Go meal for one meal swipe equivalency, after which they leave their ID with the cashier and sign their name and time on the To-Go list by the entrance. Fifteen minutes are allotted for students to gather their meal, after which they sign out and collect their ID from the cashier. Students are allowed five To-Go meals per week, to be used during lunch or dinner.

This program is one outcome of the Dining Services Committee to address student concerns on the current meal program. The committee is a group of faculty and students that have been working throughout the semester, looking into concerns about hours, menus, and the meal plan. According to Linda McDougall, director of dining services, the committee identified the inconvenience of Grab and Go and crowding of Sharples during peak meal periods as two main problems. Class times often cause a lunch rush that leads to congestion in Sharples.

Executive director of auxiliary services Anthony Coschignano said that the change in location and the To-Go option in Sharples addressed overcrowding and moved the Grab and Go to a more convenient location for many students.

“As a committee we have discussed options that would help students with overcrowding, time constraints, and ease of convenience,” said Coschignano. “During our assessment of concerns we looked how to best serve our students, and we felt that bringing Grab and Go to where the majority of classes met during lunch would allow more students to participate.”

David Chen ’19 expressed skepticism about the change in location for Grab and Go and the overall accessibility for students not taking STEM classes. “I don’t think the majority of students are actually at Sci Center,” said Chen. “I think they are just accommodating lab students, because that is the time most of the labs are going to be starting.”

However, Coschignano insists that the take-out option in Sharples will provide a compromise for the changing location of Grab and Go.

“Since we moved the Grab and Go from Essie Mae’s, the To-Go option would be for the convenience of those students who have classes in the center of campus,” said Coschignano. “Also, the To-Go option allows students who need an option of a meal on the go [and do] not have the time to sit and eat.”

Chen, who is taking a class at Bryn Mawr, disagreed about the convenience of the To-go option in comparison to the lunch options at Bryn Mawr’s dining hall.

“At Bryn Mawr they have the same thing at the dining hall, where you grab a takeout box, but they don’t make you sign in or out,” said Chen. “I don’t see the point in signing in or out, especially at the lunch rush around 12:30. You won’t be able to make it in 15 minutes if everyone else goes at 12:30 because of the long lines.”

Students have also expressed that the pilot programs haven’t helped to alleviate the lunch rush in the two days they have been running. Romeo Luevano ’19 shared his view that the new To-Go option is not decreasing congestion in Sharples.

“I like the thought of it,” said Luevano. “However, the lunch rush is still the same anxiety-inducing time of the day that it has always been.”

Dining services will be evaluating student feedback to decide whether to keep the pilot programs in place. Depending on the overall response of the student body, the pilot programs may stay in place for the remainder of the semester, or even be expanded into next year.

“If the pilot programs achieve positive results, we would look to extend the program for the remainder of the semester and measure if it has continued success,” said Coschignano. “We will be examining overall usage of both options and also have asked students to write to us with their feedback.”

Green advisors conduct audit of school’s waste practices

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In an effort to make the college community aware of their recycling and composting practices, the Green Advisors, in conjunction with Environmental Services, the Grounds Crew and the Sustainability Committee, organized an audit of the college’s waste.

The Green Advisors, a student group that promotes environmentally-conscious decisions on campus, conducted the trash audit outside of the Science Center on Wednesday, November 6. During the audit, students, faculty and staff helped sort waste into nine categories: items in the trash that are compostable/recyclable/trash, items in the recycling that are compostable/recyclable/trash and items in the compost that are compostable/recyclable/trash.

Out of the waste thrown into the trash, 37 percent of it was actually trash while the rest could have been composted or recycled. Out of all of the waste that could have been composted, 7.6 percent of it was put into the compost. Additionally, the college community threw away 79 pounds of compost.

“The idea behind the trash audit was to have an actual visual of how much waste we as students produce and how much is being disposed in the wrong ways,” green advisor Indiana Reid-Shaw ’17. “We will continue these audits so that we can have records and observe the downward trend in campus waste.”

Following the audit, the Green Advisors’ plan to put up more signs and create educational campaigns to make people more aware of what should be composted and recycled. In addition, the Green Advisors hope to be able to put more compost bins in place around campus.

Green Advisors found the audit to be productive, helping them better understand how much general knowledge about recycling and composting that the community possesses.

“I was really happy we were finally able to do the audit, since we’ve been waiting to get baseline waste data for a while so that we have something to measure our improvement against,” wrote Green Advisor Kelley Langhans ‘16 in an email to the Phoenix. “The results were striking, and show that as a school we do a really bad job composting. The audit has given [the Green Advisors] a stronger focus on teaching people what is compostable and making composting more convenient.”

Although the audit has had a positive impact on many members of the community, for Dining Services, cost is standing in the way of acting as environmentally favorably as possible.

“We will continue to think of better products for the environment,” wrote Linda McDougall, director of dining services. “The shame about this is most of these products are still quite costly and we have to pass these costs along to our customers, and many customers do not want to pay added costs for such things.”

Some say that the trash audit has already had a positive impact on the way that students are recycling and composting. Since the audit, Hazlett Henderson ’17, who frequently picks up the compost from the Science Center and Kohlberg, has observed an increase in the amount of compost and a greater interest amongst the student body about what can be composted.

Diners digest changes to meal plan as price rises

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This semester, Swarthmore’s Dining Services team will introduce several changes to Sharples Dining Hall, Essie Mae’s Snackbar and the Science Center coffee bar. Discussing potential stages and evaluating student feedback since the fall of 2012, the team has mostly directed changes toward pricing, hours and types of foods served.

Specifically, at-the-door prices at Sharples are now $5.75 for breakfast, $10.00 for lunch, and $12.50 for dinner.  Last year’s prices were $4.75, $6.75, and $10.00, respectively.  Meal equivalencies for students on the meal plan at Essie Mae’s are now $3.50 for breakfast, $5.00 for lunch, and $9.00 for dinner, rather than $2.60, $3.75, and $4.60, respectively.  Because of this meal equivalency increase at Essie Mae’s, students can no longer double swipe at the snack bar.  They can, however, swipe one meal at Sharples and another meal at Essie Mae’s. In addition, students on the 14-meal plan now have $20.00 more points than in the past, while students on the 17-meal plan now have $10.00 more.

All of these price changes accompany a $117 raise in the price of all regular meal plans.

Unlike last year’s closing time of 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, students will now be able to enter Sharples until 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, while food will stop being served at 8:10 p.m. Closing time remains 6:30 p.m. on the weekend.  Because of this later closing time, meal equivalency for dinner at Essie Mae’s will be pushed back to 8:00 p.m., too. Along with these time changes, Essie Mae’s grill will now close half an hour before the scheduled close time, as opposed to last year, when the grill closed each night at 9:30 p.m. The Science Center coffee bar will also stay open until 1:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and will be open on Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

Bag lunch will now have a wider variety of salad and sandwich options.  Sharples and Essie Mae’s, on the other hand, are eliminating peanut-based food because of allergies. A substitute for peanut butter called WOW butter, a soy-based product, will be used.

Students have mixed feelings about these changes.  Among the most positive responses is students’ excitement about the increase in meal equivalency at Essie Mae’s.

“The increase on meal equivalencies means that Essie’s will be more accessible for me, as in the past I’d often have to use two meals to fill up during dinner time,” Julian Marin ‘14 said.  “These increases in points makes meals at Essie’s actually act like meals, rather than discounts on your food. […] Additionally, it’s a win-win as you can still double swipe between Sharples and Essie’s and now get nearly double the value at Essie’s if you do so.”

Adrian Guerard ’14, however, does not agree that the increased meal equivalencies will always be beneficial.  Instead, he thinks it may lead people to buy food unnecessarily.

“Nine dollars is a lot for dinner at Essie’s,” he said.  “Double swiping was nice because it forced people to think about whether or not it was truly worth spending another meal.  I’m worried a lot of people will get far more than they actually need, leading to waste, or worse, longer wait times.”

While he disagrees that the inability to double swipe at Essie Mae’s will be detrimental, Imaleayo Abel ’14 believes the increased meal equivalencies will be especially helpful for students on the 14-meal plan.

“I only use Essie Mae’s for dinner and hitherto, the meal equivalency was $4.60,” he said.   “Say I double swiped, I’d have gotten $9.20.  Now, I’ll be getting $9.00 and will be saving a meal, which is significant if you’re on the 14-meal plan. In fact, the extra $0.20 from double-swiping in the past is too marginal, […] largely because most items are in multiples of $0.50.”

Dining Services Director Linda McDougall attributes no longer being able to double swipe to the time changes in Sharples’ hours.

“With the increased hours, we feel that a student with almost any schedule can eat a meal at Sharples and then eat a meal at Essie Mae’s later.  They can choose depending on their activity whether the meal earlier at Sharples be a light meal or a hearty meal.”

For Noel Quiñones ’15, the time changes are crucial.

“I have been in many discussions about dining services at Swarthmore, and one of the biggest issues has always been timing,” he said.  “I am shocked that it took the administration this long to realize most of us should be eating dinner later than the old 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. Sharples times because we have to make whatever food we eat last until 2:00 a.m.”

Quiñones, as well as Guerard, also believes that the extended Sharples hours may make Sharples less crowded and hectic and, consequently, lead to shorter lines in the dining hall.  Marin added that the extended hours will also allow students who have a limited amount of time to eat at Sharples — namely, those who have an evening seminar or play a sport.

One concern regarding these changes, as shared by Abel and Quinones, is that because meal equivalency at Essie’s increased, so will the prices of items at the snack bar.  Abel attributes this hypothesis to his suspicion that the administration will need an incentive to deter students from only going to Essie Mae’s, rather than both Essie Mae’s and Sharples.

While McDougall said that, as with the increased meal plan prices, prices are contingent on operating costs, there will not be an across-the-board increase on food prices at Essie Mae’s.  This, according to McDougall, explains why the prices of meal plans have gone up.  While the prices of entrees at Essie Mae’s will not increase, select other items in the snack bar will.

“I think that the changes to the meal plan are things we needed to maintain the well-being of the student body,” Rose Pitkin ’14 said.  “A student shouldn’t have to use two meals just to eat enough food at dinner. With an increase in the amount of food we are allowed to get, especially at Essie’s, I would expect the price of the meal plan to go up. […] Aside from the increase in meal equivalency at Essie’s, which seems like the obvious use of this extra meal plan charge, I would like to know what the student who almost never eats at Essie’s is getting at Sharples with that extra money.  I understand market prices go up in general, but does it need to go up that much? And why hasn’t it changed over the past couple years?”

Marin and Guerard also feel that the elimination of peanut-based foods is unnecessary and will impact food preparation.

“As much as I don’t care for peanuts, it seems ridiculous that we should have to get rid of it,” Guerard said.  “Granted, if people learned how to isolate their peanut consumption so as not to contaminate the other stations, we wouldn’t have this issue.”

It is not only students who have concerns regarding these changes. McDougall does, too.

“One unknown [drawback] with all of these changes is the impact on our budget,” she said.  “We do not know how students will use their new options so we will need to closely monitor the financial impact of our changes.”

McDougall encourages students to be patient during the first few weeks of school, as both the dining services team and the student body adjust to these changes.

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