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Students call for more religious representation in dining

The first day of Ramadan begins April 12 this year, and Miami University students who celebrate are looking to campus dining halls to help break their fast after sundown.

However, sunset usually occurs after dining halls close at 8 p.m., leaving many Muslim students unable to break their fasts using their swipes. 

Brent Mason, senior director of food and beverage on campus, said the current system allows for students to fill out a date, time and dining hall location to pick up their meal. 

Students are then able to swipe in, grab a carryout container and choose items on the menu to take with them. 

“The takeout container can be consumed at any time of the student’s choosing, and that has worked in the past,” Mason said. 

However, some Muslim students say this system has not been working for them.

Omar Elghazawi, a junior studying political science and journalism, said the pickup times were not adequate for Muslim students. They were often before sunset, and students would have to hold onto the food too long.

Elghazawi and other students decided to take the issue to Miami’s Associated Student Government (ASG) in February 2020. 

“I’m an off-campus student now, but when I was living on campus and practicing Ramadan, it was quite an inconvenience for me because of how they worked everything out,” Elghazawi said. “As a Muslim, it made me want to help change so that the process would be a lot easier for those who practice Ramadan on campus currently and in the future.” 

Elghazawi said ASG was supportive of their initiative, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to passing the legislation and moving forward with new accommodations. 

“By the time it was in motion, the pandemic happened and basically stopped all of our progress,” Elghazawi said.

On Feb. 26 of this year the legislation passed, and the students began to brainstorm new ideas for accommodations. 

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Elghazawi said working with the dining halls had been hard, and progress has slowed down again. 

“Getting support from ASG wasn’t really the issue — talking with dining is,” Elghazawi said. “The initiative is something I still want to accomplish, but as of now, the accommodations haven’t been done because of that.”

Jewish students celebrating Passover on March 27 have run into the same issues with dining halls not being accommodating.

Senior American studies major Emily Garforth is the President of Hillel, an association of Jewish students on campus, and said the dining halls rely on Hillel and Chabad, another Jewish organization on campus, to provide meals for students who are celebrating Passover. 

“I think the dining halls have done a great job of being accommodating for allergy restrictions and for dietary choices, but could improve more by including some types of kosher and halal options, especially during holiday times,” Garforth said.

Garforth said accommodating students of different religions in the dining halls is important. 

“Providing Passover alternative food options sends a strong message that Miami is a welcoming place for prospective Jewish students interested in coming to school here,” she said. 

According to Mason, they have partnered with Hillel to offer matzah, an unleavened flatbread that is an important Passover food, upon request in Garden Commons and Maplestreet Commons. Kosher meals are only available in MacCracken Market and Emporium and come frozen. There are no kosher meals available in the dining halls.  

Two Jewish students, Becca Pallant and Danielle Stein, hope to pass a legislation in ASG similar to the legislation that Muslim students worked on passing for Ramadan. 

“We are hoping that dining halls consider multiple cultures and holidays when providing food for our students,” Pallant said. 

Pallant and Stein are still working on what the legislation will be exactly, but they are hoping to get the dining halls to accommodate other cultures and religions in their legislation, not just the markets on campus. They have not yet brought any plans to the ASG floor. 

Students are still working on Ramadan accommodations, but for now, dining halls will continue to use carryout options.