Wesleyan came in second place in PETA2’s “Most Vegetarian-Friendly College Contest,” losing to American University in the final round after beating out hundreds of schools nation-wide. According to Ryan Huling, the College Campaign Coordinator for PETA2, it was a fierce battle between the two top contestants.
“I’m sorry to say that it appears American University has squeaked out a victory in this year’s competition,” Huling wrote in an email. “If it’s any consolation, I can assure you that it was close.”
Wesleyan was one of 32 schools nominated to partake in the competition after Bon Appétit Executive Chef John Hutchison submitted vegetarian recipes and pictures to PETA2, a branch of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. According to PETA2’s website, student recommendations and feedback via Facebook and MySpace were other factors in the nomination process. The votes were tallied proportionally, according to the respective schools’ populations. Students and staff could vote as many times as they wanted, but only on a daily basis.
“I voted every day I could,” said Kosher First Cook Mark Bousquet.
Bon Appétit staff led the charge, encouraging students to vote in a variety of ways. A computer was set up in the Marketplace as a voting station, and with each round that Wesleyan advanced—there were five total—more banners were put up around Usdan. Vegan First Cook Stephanie Zinowski plans and prepares the lunchtime vegan meals at the Marketplace.
“They put a great deal of effort into it, from the cashiers to the cooks,” Zinowski said.
Wendy Norton, one of the cashiers at the Marketplace, said she campaigned extra hard for the title, donning stickers, cheerleader pompoms, and tattoos to remind Usdan diners to vote. Norton said she believes the contest benefited the student body.
“I believe it’s good for the school because there are lots of people becoming vegan and vegetarian,” Norton said. “It’s good to be educated.”
Bon Appétit took campaigning a step further, offering real incentives to those who participated.
”In the beginning we offered a free cup of coffee from Pi Café for anyone who voted,” said Dining Manager, Laurie Casey. “This week we upped the ante to a $100 Best Buy gift card.“
Not everyone, however, was as enthusiastic about the competition. On the Wesleying blog, some students questioned Bon Appétit’s dedication to vegetarian and vegan options.
“If Wesleyan is either the number 1 or number 2 most vegetarian-friendly college in the country, why is there never a vegetarian special at Summerfields?” asked one student. “Every week day I get my hopes up and they are dashed over and over.”
Other students criticized the PETA organization itself.
“Why are we supporting PETA again?” asked a student. “Are we really interested in gaining favor with a hypocritical cult movement?”
Bernice Laille, Director of Technology and Marketing for Bon Appétit, said that the contest is about more than PETA.
“It’s true PETA does this for free publicity on campus,” Laille said, “But it isn’t about PETA. For us, it’s about our school winning and about school pride.”
According to Huling, Wesleyan will receive a certificate and press for its second place finish.
“Wesleyan has still earned a spot in our Top 10 list,” wrote Huling. “Which means we will be promoting your school in our national media pitches.”
Even though Wesleyan did not win the number one spot, Bon Appétit staffers are not discouraged.
“I think it’s really exciting that we even got this far,” Zinowski said. “I mean, first would have been nice but second is still cool. We were up against some big contenders so it’s amazing that we got this far.”