Bartels Gives Student “All Lives Matter” To-Go Box

Since the Black Lives Matter movement was established in 2013, there has been dispute over people responding to the movement with the phrase “All Lives Matter.” The Black Lives Matter movement was created following the death of Trayvon Martin, with the Twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter. With #BLM came the phrase “All Lives Matter,” which many BLM supporters have deemed insensitive. The All Lives Matter hashtag was considered to be a counter-protest to Black Lives Matter.

During the summer of 2020, there was a revival of the Black Lives Matter movement as millions of people protested against systemic racism and police brutality. President Steven H. Kaplan from the University of New Haven sent an email to students on June 6, promising to help promote Black Lives Matter and diversity education more when students returned to campus in the fall.

Following that promise, students were outraged when a Black student went to the Marketplace dining hall on Sept. 25 and received a to-go box with “All Lives Matter” written on the bottom of it, with a smiley face.

The student who received the to-go box wishes to remain anonymous.

She told the Charger Bulletin, “I don’t feel like the staff or students are getting a proper education because if they were, that phrase wouldn’t have been on the box and handed to a Black student.”

The student said that the staff member handing out the to-go boxes saw what was written on it and did not offer to give her a new one.

The student later went to her residential assistant (RA), sophomore Grace-Oriana Andre about the issue. Andre said that she had come back from Bartels a few minutes before her resident did, and that her own box said “laugh” with a smiley face. She said that it appeared as though all of the boxes already had messages written on them.

Hunter Lang from the Charger Bulletin received a to-go box with “peace and love.” Lang said, “From the message I got on my box, it was clear that there were good intentions behind the message, but there also seems to be a lack of political awareness.”

“Every to-go box was pre-written with a message, so I don’t know for sure if it was even the young lady at the station when you first walk in to swipe your card,” Andre said.

Andre posted the photo of the to-go box with “All Lives Matter” on her Instagram story, and the incident quickly spread across campus.

“I would like the University to recognize how serious this situation is especially in these times where Black lives are fighting for justice against a system that won’t allow that,” Andre said. “Not only do I want the person who did this and others who may agree with them to be educated on the matter, but I want there to be action taken because this affects everyone on campus.”

On Sept. 26 the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) Instagram posted a statement from dean of students Dr. Ophelie Rowe-Allen about the incident.

Rowe-Allen said, “This may seem to be a benign message with no ill intent, but in the current climate, statements such as this undermine our comprehensive efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive University community in which everyone feels accepted and welcome.”

“We have reached out to the dining services team to express our concern,” she said. “We will continue to foster open dialogue on why phrases such as this are harmful and polarizing. Continuing to have these important conversations is critical to advancing progress in our communities near and far.”

The student who received the box did not feel that this response was effective. She said that there was no guarantee that the faculty member would see the Instagram post and that students were not told whether or not the staff member who wrote the message was found and if the issue was even ever addressed.

She said, “Why isn’t this the main priority? There is staff on campus 24/7, so why can’t anyone deal with it sooner? Are our weekend plans more important than establishing a solution and giving out the proper educational opportunity?”

On Sept. 30, the dean of students office and dining services provided the Charger Bulletin with an updated response of the message posted on the USGA Instagram. This update clarified that the dean of students reached out to the general manager of dining services, and that chief diversity officer Lorenzo Boyd is planning to “foster open dialogue on why phrases such as this are hurtful and polarizing.”

Rowe-Allen told the Charger Bulletin that the dean of students office and Lorenzo Boyd are investigating the Marketplace staff.

On how education will increase among faculty, coordinator of leadership, diversity, and inclusion at the Myatt Center, Zanaiya Léon said, “On the Staff side, the Myatt Center offers workshops that staff, faculty, and students can take to better educate them on social identities, power, privilege, oppression, and allyship to name a few themes. Unfortunately at this time, those workshops are not widely mandatory and are only given upon request.”

Senior political science major and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president Jordan Harris, believes that workshops should become mandatory for faculty. Harris said that teachers and faculty need to continue their education about current events and diversity, as the messages that they promote are the ones that students will carry into their careers.

“The university has to show that they care about this and diversity,” he said. “They will see that the students will follow.”

Harris said that he not was not surprised by what happened, but that he hopes the university makes this their priority.

“This university says they stand for diversity and inclusion and I would like to see action taken place in the situation to truly support that,” Andre said.