Students Rally in the First Step to Drop Sodexo

Kendall Lowery ’22
Staff Writer

You may have heard of the Drop Sodexo campaign around campus or passed their signs in your dorm halls, but what does the movement entail?

Southern California’s spring showers finally relented on Friday, Mar. 8, just in time for the Drop Sodexo campaign to come back swinging on Scripps’ Bowling Green Lawn. At 1 o’clock that afternoon, students and faculty gathered to protest Scripps’ contract with Sodexo, to establish future plans for the movement, and finally, to deliver a letter to Scripps President Lara Tiedens. This letter contained a petition asking Tiedens to discontinue Scripps’ contract with Sodexo in 2020, as well as Drop Sodexo’s demands:

“1. A promise that Scripps will not contract with Sodexo, Aramark or Compass.

  1. Dining management through either a transition to in house management or a contract with an outside company that abides by the following: a) procurement practices that are sustainable as well as socially and ethically responsible to minimize the college’s carbon footprint and other harmful effects on the environment. b) maintenance of all current Malott workers as well as a guarantee for a living wage and proper benefits such as paid sick days, retirement plans, and healthcare in accordance with the High Road workplace practices. c) a management system that responds to worker concerns. d) encouragement for all vendors to invest in their workers and the communities where they operate.
  2. A transparent contracting process that involves workers, students, and the greater community by taking into account and adequately responding to their needs.”

The Scripps rally was one of six colleges participating in a national day of action for the Real Meals campaign. During the Scripps protest, similar rallies were taking place at New York University, Concordia University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and Western Washington University.

The localized movement found its roots in the socioeconomic awareness that the Claremont Colleges promote: as stated on the Drop Sodexo website, the corporation “is infamous for its host of civil rights abuses, exploitative labor policies, neoliberalism, anti-unionism, substandard food quality, violations of food safety, environmental destruction, racial discrimination, major class-action lawsuits, ownership of private prisons, and much more.”

Recognition of this wrongdoing was acted upon when Pomona College dropped Sodexo in 2011, and continued identification of Sodexo’s immorality has been demonstrated by both students and faculty since.

“It seems asynchronous that Scripps would have 3 semesters of Core in which they teach us about social justice and specifically touch on the prison industrial complex, and then immediately after class, all of the students turn around to eat lunch at the Scripps dining hall, which is supported by Sodexo, a company that benefits from prison labor,” Tova Mira Levine ’21 said.

Faculty who attended the rally also expressed discontent with this incompatibility between Scripps’ values and its actions.

“We market ourselves as a just institution, and it seems really important to me that we put our money where our mouth is,” Scripps politics professor Nancy Neiman said.

After student and faculty speakers launched the rally, the group set off to complete the petition drop. As they marched into Balch Hall, the protestors’ infectious chants of “Hey, ho, Sodexo has got to go!” and “What do we want? Food Justice! When do we want it? Now!” thundered through the echoing halls of the institution. As articulated by protest organizer Griffin Cloud Levine (PZ ‘19), the Scripps administration continues to address this Drop Sodexo movement apathetically, solely focusing on the financial comparison of dining options. This lack of recognition seemed continuous within the administration’s reception of Drop Sodexo’s letter during the protest.

However, after the delivery of the campaign’s demands to President Lara Tiedens, the protestors were invigorated.

“Today went amazingly well,” protest organizer Sophie Peters ’20 said. “There was a big turnout, a lot of positivity, and it seems like the broader community is on board. We have over a thousand signatures on our petition: 1,027 as we were heading out here today.”

Despite the success of the protest, continued student action within the movement is still necessary.

“We are very privileged, because we get to push the administration in a way that results in very little consequences,” Alicia Goode-Allen ’19 said “Out in LA people are arrested or are beaten by police or the media bashes them; there isn’t that same environment of support without immense consequences which are, at their worst, life-threatening.”

The rally speakers from the Prison Abolition club furthered Drop Sodexo’s call to action with their reminder that “the fight is not over here. This petition is a huge step towards dropping Sodexo but we have much longer to go. We have to put pressure on Scripps to do more than to just choose the least evil of the three big corporations and meet all of our demands. We have to push Scripps and all of the other 5Cs to choose humanity over profit, protect our workers and our vulnerable students, support environmental justice, and to completely divest from the prison industrial complex.”

If you are interested in learning more about the movement to Drop Sodexo, visit the Drop Sodexo Facebook page or contact them at dropsodexo@gmail.com