Does Quinnipiac cater to everyone?

Quinnipiac should make more strides in achieving inclusivity

By on April 30, 2019

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is the celebration of Jews’ freedom from Egypt. A seder, which means order in Hebrew, is held on the first night of every Passover. At that seder, families gather to celebrate freedom, and remember both the struggles and successes of their ancestors.

This year, Passover was celebrated from April 19 to April 27. During the eight-day holiday, Jews are forbidden from eating wheat, oats, yeast, rye, barley and spelt, among other foods. This makes things difficult considering how many foods contain these ingredients.

As somebody who is both Jewish and biracial, it’s easy to feel different than others on this campus. I’ve always been a minority, but haven’t always had to feel like one. My tan skin isn’t quite dark enough to tell the story of my father, who is a man of color himself. My curly hair exposes my Jewish heritage more clearly, but this has never been a problem.

Still, I have no friends in my life who share both traits, and very few who can identify as at least one or the other. It leaves a lonely feeling inside of me, realizing that nobody in my life is able to relate to or fully understand who I am outside of my two brothers. Both aspects of who I am are large parts of my identity, parts of me that I’m proud of and own publicly.

As most people are aware, the history for both African Americans and Jews are disturbing ones, and still today the ramifications of each are felt. My father has told stories of being followed around hardware stores on the assumption he would steal just because of the color of his skin.

As a child, my mother was pushed to the ground at recess and told the sole reason for the shove was her Jewish faith. She had to fight for her absences on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays, to be excused ones.

Fortunately, I haven’t experienced the same type of ignorance. In my life, people have been very accepting of who I am, but sometimes, acceptance isn’t enough. This past week while I was celebrating Passover, I desired more than just acceptance, but didn’t feel like I was getting that. It was an incredibly difficult week to get through, and Quinnipiac played a large role in why.

When looking for food that met the holiday’s dieting restrictions, it was difficult to find anything. In the Bobcat Den, there was very little provided that I was permitted to eat. The regular menu of breaded chicken tenders was off limits. The main course of the night was often inedible too, as it was usually some form of pasta or breaded chicken.

Mondos serves all its food in sub rolls or tortillas that aren’t kosher during Passover, so that was a no-go as well. The only food available for me after 8 p.m. every day was a salad bowl from Sono. It’s not bad eating, but eight days in a row of the same meal for dinner gets old really fast.

French fries and chips were safe as they’re both made from potatoes, but do fries and chips sound good when they’re all you can rely on for a week straight? If you think yes, then I applaud you, but personally my face broke out with acne, likely because of the greasy and unhealthy diet I had to practice.

I did receive a few messages from friends alerting me that matza was being provided in the Bobcat Den one day, but when I arrived, I found none. Despite the stories of inclusiveness, I never experienced any myself. I heard that I was being provided for, but those words rarely felt like reality.

The main cafeteria had more options, and I managed to eat a meal there once or twice. I sat with my friend Roberto, a minority himself, and we enjoyed mashed potatoes together. For the first time all week, I felt full and satisfied, but one day of success means less when it’s preceded by seven of failure.

My experience this week isn’t entirely on the shoulder of Quinnipiac, though. I share an equal amount of the blame. Admittedly, I should have reached out to somebody and spoken up. If you want to be recognized, the easiest way to go about doing so is to advocate for yourself, and I failed to do so throughout the entirety of the week. I didn’t speak to anybody about my dietary restrictions and regrettably never made an effort to help myself.

That’s why I wanted to take advantage of this platform, because it’s better late than never. So this is me asking now, as a student and as a man of Jewish faith, that in the years to come we strive for change at Quinnipiac.

It’s me asking for Quinnipiac to strongly consider the question, what does inclusivity look like for all of its students, not just the majority? How can we, as a community, make sure that 100 percent of students feel accepted and welcome? How can we ensure we won’t be satisfied with just 77 percent feeling this way? I look forward to being a part of the conversations and changes to come.

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About Jared Penna