Oberlin’s Peta2 Ranking Beaten by Wesleyan’s Veggie Vote Mobilization

Julian Spiro, Staff Writer

Despite Oberlin’s many tofu scrambles and vegan baked goods, the school just missed out on Peta2’s Most Vegetarian-Friendly College title. Oberlin improved from last year’s sixth-place finish in Peta2’s “Most Vegetarian-Friendly Colleges Competition,” coming in second behind Wesleyan University.

However, representatives of Oberlin and Wesleyan alike are reluctant to put too much stock in the results.

Michele Gross, business director of Campus Dining Services, maintains that the contest does not provide a meaningful ranking of the quality and quantity of colleges’ vegetarian options.

“It seems to be only a popularity contest, [based solely on] how many students respond,” said Gross. “It does not seem to really evaluate the programs, and in our case, it does not reflect if a student is in OSCA versus CDS.”

Gross says she has “no idea why we improved” from last year’s ranking.

Campus Dining Services promoted the contest by mentioning it in their weekly ads in the Review, and by including it on the CDS web site. They also set up placards on tables in Stevenson dining hall.

By contrast, Wesleyan officials launched a concerted campaign to get out the vote. They sent mass emails and put voting booths in their dining halls to promote the contest.

Wesleyan senior Alex Klass suggested that since Bon Appétit was hired by Wesleyan just two years ago, it may have been trying to get out the vote to secure a victory that would improve its reputation with the school. She did say, however, that the school’s vegetarian options seemed to have improved since contracting the food service company.

According to Wesleyan first-year Avery Trufelman, Bon Appétit representatives at Wesleyan offered incentives to vote in the contest. As Wesleyan advanced in the rounds of voting, so did the quality of incentives — from brownies to theater tickets and the chance to win an iPod.

In an article in Wesleyan’s Method Magazine, Trufelman asked, “Was Wesleyan dubbed the winner just because Bon Appétit auctioned off gift certificates in exchange for votes?”

Despite her doubts about the legitimacy of the contest, Trufelman expressed pride in Wesleyan’s vegetarian and vegan options. “I feel like if Peta2 were to actually check [the school] out, they’d find that our vegan food is actually damn good. I genuinely believe that Wesleyan [deserved to win].”

Peta2’s voting rules allowed students to vote once per day, prompting Klass to call the voting process “basically like American Idol.”

Regardless of how the election was run, the results suggest positive things about the two schools’ dining options. “It was an online voting scheme, so it’s not exactly scientific,” said Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov. “But I thought we did very well.”