Harvard University’s dining service has removed labels from soda machines in its facilities over concerns that merely reading them could damage the fragile psyches of university students.
The root of the problem, like so many other campus food fights, is Israel. Until last spring, Harvard Undergraduate Dining Services (HUDS) purchased water machines from a firm owned by SodaStream, an Israel-based firm that operates a plant in the West Bank.
According to the Harvard Crimson, those purchases have stopped after activists on campus complained that the machines were offensive to students of Palestinian origin. Nor did HUDS stop there. They went so far as to strip SodaStream labels from machines they already owned in order to minimize any potential “psychological harm” to students who oppose the company.
Activists say its only fair to hide the machines’ manufacturer, given the potential harm they could inflict on students.
Rachel J. Sandalow-Ash, a sophomore and member of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, summed up the grievance:
These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the University doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights.
A “microaggression,” according to modern campus activists, is some minor everyday statement or action that entrenches discrimination or degrades a person based on their group identity.
While HUDS’s suppression of SodaStream may please activists, it has upset Harvard’s leadership, which now says the decision violates school policy. In a statement, provost Alan Garber said:
Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy. If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now.
University president Drew Faust has begun an investigation of HUDS’s unilateral decision.
Israel-related disputes are not new when it comes to university procurements. In recent years, students at several different schools have pushed to halt the purchase of Sabra brand hummus, because the brand is owned by an Israeli food manufacturer.
This report, by Blake Neff, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.