When I was only a few people away from my long-awaited chicken breast, a friend came up to me and asked if I could get one for her, too. I carefully considered the Caf policy on portion size.
After concluding that two chicken breasts was not an unreasonable amount of food to ask for, I boldly took my place in front of the Grill line server and stated my purpose.
To my complete shock, my request was denied. Apparently two chicken breasts was a bit too much to ask for.
Now, this would not be completely unreasonable, given the chaotic state of the Caf at that point in time. However, approximately 20 seconds before me, a large male had made a similar request for two pieces of chicken and was obliged. Hence my shock.
"What?!" I asked. "But you just gave that guy in front of me two pieces!"
The flustered Caf server responded, "Well, that's because he's a football player."
While I was ready to accept that getting two pieces of chicken was not an option due to crowding, not being a football player was certainly not a valid reason. I ended up getting my second piece of chicken, which I promptly passed over to my friend, who was hovering (in somewhat obvious discomfort) near the Bowls line.
I had uncovered a discriminatory Caf policy. Not only was denying one student a certain amount of food while doling it out to another unfair, it was downright ridiculous. Do football players pay more than other students? Do they actually have larger meal plans? Do they have faster metabolisms that merit preferential portion size? It's not even football season!
I had just experienced size discrimination - the belief that just because a person does not possess bulging biceps and a hefty beer gut, he or she does not need to eat as much.
I decided to seek out the Caf server to determine whether or not the "chicken indiscretion" was a result of Bon Appétit policy.
She explained that while there is nothing official from Bon Appétit mandating that athletes get fed more, one of the chefs told her during busy times when food is running low just to "give second helpings to the bigger guys, the ones wearing football T-shirts."
While unofficial, such a policy, even when brought out in emergency crowding situations only, is harmful.
Besides the obvious fact that no student pays any more for an individual meal than another, a large degree of gender, non-athlete and size discrimination is implied here.
As I discussed the incident with a friend, she mentioned that at her boyfriend's university, athletes are the only ones allowed to purchase a $6,000 meal plan; all other students are limited to $4,000. Another friend mentioned a similar policy at a big state school in California.
St. Olaf is not a big state school. While our athletes certainly do work very hard and put a lot of time and effort into their sports, there are plenty of active students not on varsity sports teams who have similar nutritional needs. Denying a student food based on his or her physical size also neglects to account for metabolism.
Looking back on the "chicken indiscretion," I am most irked by the fact that such discriminatory thinking is prevalent among students and staff. I am sure that the chef who instated the "one chicken breast per student except for football players" policy did so only out of a need to speed things up in the Grill line during crowded meal times. However, given that few students even have the option of becoming a football player, or any kind of sports player, such a policy not only reflects uninformed thought, but it forces a divide among students.
Think I'm getting a little too upset about a silly chicken breast? Just imagine if the next time you asked for that extra tasty falafel or chicken wing you were told, "No, I'm sorry, we only give seconds to the St. Olaf Choir."
Staff Writer Sara Perelli-Minetti is a junior from Greenwich, Conn. She majors in English.