Hankering for a hamburger? Better not be this Monday night. That evening, Thorne and Moulton Dining Halls, in partnership with the Bowdoin College Democrats (BCD) and other student groups, will not serve any meat. Meatless Monday, a national initiative, is well-intentioned: reducing meat consumption limits carbon emissions and provides health benefits.
We recognize that the event will only affect students for a single meal, but we take issue with the way that it was organized. The Dining Service readily accomodates students' varied dietary preferences, and has established the precedent that students should have a wide range of choices available. Students should be able to eat whatever they choose, and no student group—regardless of political or religious persuasion—should dictate our dietary choices.
It is one thing to encourage students to consider the importance of sustainable living, and it is quite another to demand a behavorial change, even for one meal. A more palatable initiative would, perhaps, indicate the carbon footprint of each dish in the dining hall and encourage students to enjoy a sustainable meal, without rigidly constraining what students eat.
At many other colleges and universities that promote Meatless Monday, dining halls prepare menus featuring vegetarian dining options and emphasize the health and environmental benefits to eating less meat, yet prepare some meat nonetheless. Absent from many of these campaigns is the involvement of campus political groups.
At Bowdoin, students are encouraged to voice their passions and advocate for causes they believe in. In every instance of political activism, however, the greater student body is always granted the option of participating—having the choice to voice our opinions makes it all the more meaningful when we do. With Meatless Monday, students who prefer to have meat in their diet are compelled to submit to an agenda with which they may not agree.
Dissenters might choose to eat at Benchwarmers or order from Jack Magee's Pub, but that would inflict an unnecessary expense on students simply for exercising their dietary preferences. If students pay for a meal plan, they ought to be able to go to the dining hall and have the culinary options they paid for.
We offer two recommendations. Should the organizers decide to maintain Meatless Monday in its present form, we ask that this Monday remain its only incarnation. It would be more preferable for the Dining Service, Bowdoin College Democrats and all of the co-sponsoring organizations to change the spirit of Meatless Monday to one that simply encourages—but does not force—students to not eat meat on that day. In this capacity, we would support efforts to make Meatless Monday a permanent fixture in Bowdoin's weekly schedule.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Linda Kinstler and Seth Walder.