UR was nominated for “Favorite Vegan Friendly College” of 2014 by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the “Large U.S. School” category.

This is the first year in which the nomination is worded as “favorite.” It formally worded as “best.” This reflects the change in the purpose of the nomination – rather than assessing the actual variety of vegan and vegetarian options, PETA is acknowledging student opinion on quality of the institution’s options.

UR was first acknowledged by PETA in 2011, receiving the award for the sixth most vegan-friendly small school in the U.S.

At first, Students Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth (SAVVY) Dining Representative  and senior Melody Jaros was skeptical of the nomination, but she soon realized the persisting problem with vegan and vegetarian options in colleges and universities nationwide.

“You have to realize how un-vegan-friendly many other schools were at that time,” Jaros said. “Most vegans I talked to at other schools were shocked to hear we had Meatless Mondays that were actually meatless, rather than just offering one or two extra vegetarian options.”

The situation for vegans and vegetarians is improving in schools across the country, and PETA contributes to this by recognizing institutions that uphold vegan and vegetarian values.

Jaros believes what helped secure UR’s nomination for this year was the constant efforts of SAVVY.

“I think a big part of our ‘A’ status is the work that SAVVY has been doing to actively promote the [vegetarian] options,” Jaros said. “SAVVY’s 30-Day Veg Challenge, which included 184 students/staff pledging to go ‘veg’ for a week or a month […] is a really big and unique step, and that’s definitely commendable.”

Whether the nomination was deserved or not remains open to questions.

“We don’t have anything that’s up to par with our competitors, like vegan raspberry turnovers, pumpkin cheesecakes, a raw vegan concept station, and a cafe that serves vegan ham, turkey, cheese and bacon,” Jaros said.

Of the various qualifications that PETA used to assess the “favorite” aspect of their nomination, UR only lacked one of their requirements: an all-vegan dining facility.

UR fulfilled all other qualifications, including the ability to offer at least one vegan entry per meal, to label their vegan entrees properly, to offer an all-vegan station, and to participate in the aforementioned “Meatless Monday” program.

According to Jaros, UR has provided initiatives to improve the vegan and vegetarian experience for students, but there are still improvements to be made.

“The biggest changes I wish to see are regularly available vegan pizzas and desserts,” Jaros said. “These are both things I’ve discussed on behalf of SAVVY with Dining. We are starting to make headway on the desserts. A vegan option should be available at Meatless Monday every week for the rest of the semester.”

Dining has tried to respond to these requests but is most concerned about whether or not these dining improvements would be economical for them.

“Dining isn’t sure if there’s a demand for it, and when veg options are available, they aren’t always properly promoted,” Jaros said.

Jaros, though apprehensive of certain justifications that Dining gives for not rapidly improving vegan and vegetarian options, truly believes that Dining Services does try its best.

“Everyone I’ve interacted with in Dining Services has been very kind, helpful, and pleasant to work with,” she said. “Many I would say are even eager and enthusiastic to help better cater to vegan’s needs.”

Usmani is a member of the class of 2017.

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