UCLan reject Ramadan halal food provision
I am disappointed with the University’s decision to not support our growing Muslim student community, by failing to provide a halal option during Ramadan.
This holy month is a time for family and friends to come together as a community and celebrate, much like Christmas. For both domestic and international students away from their families, this is a chance for UCLan to show that they really care about all students.
This year more than ever, students face increased financial hardship. This was brought to light in our recent Student Hardship survey, where 43% of students said they are increasingly concerned that they may not be able to afford food.
Inclusive food options are a key priority for students, and campaigning for Halal Food Options on Campus has been a recurring issue over the past 10 years.
It was also a key manifesto point on which I was elected as Students’ Union President.
This year, a Big Idea focussed on the provision of Halal food on campus was passed by UCLan Students’ Union Council. This highlights that students want us to progress this issue with the University.
We are seeing consistent growth in the number of Muslim students studying on our campuses. From 3,065 students in 2018/19 to 3,534 students in 2019/20, UCLan has seen an increase of 469 Muslim students. With this increase, the University should be catering for their needs.
In the Higher Education sector, there has been a sharp increase in Islamophobia.
The NUS Muslim Student Experience report highlighted:
One in three respondents were fairly or very worried about experiencing verbal abuse, physical attacks, vandalism, property damage or theft relating to their religion or belief at their place of study.
This has created a toxic and negative environment for Muslims to engage in. The experiences of Muslim students is something that our University should be taking very seriously, and factors such as Ramadan and Halal food have a huge impact on the integration of students into the University community.
Halal food is a dietary requirement that should be accommodated for by an educational establishment.
We find the assertion that as a secular institution the University cannot provide halal food as confusing. The secular society lists three principles of secularism which protect and underpin many of the freedoms we enjoy as:
- Separation of religious institutions from state institutions and a public sphere where religion may participate, but not dominate.
We do not wish that halal food dominates. However, Muslim students should be able to participate in on-campus meals with the option of culturally appropriate food available to meet their dietary requirements.
- Freedom to practice one's faith or belief without harming others, or to change it or not have one, according to one's own conscience.
By not providing a Halal food option, the University takes away the freedom of Muslim students to consume food in-line with their religious beliefs on campus.
- Equality so that our religious beliefs or lack of them doesn't put any of us at an advantage or a disadvantage.
The University believe catering for Muslim students’ dietary requirements will create a separate and exclusive environment.
We believe the absence of culturally appropriate food options on campus puts Muslim students at a disadvantage. It undermines their sense of belonging on campus and excludes them from the current catering offer.
There are many activities that the University endorses throughout the year that support and celebrate various religious holidays, in line with secularism.
A few examples include: Easter egg hunts; a Christmas meal (which included halal chicken); a Multi-Faith Centre; space for Friday Prayers on campus; and well-wishes for different religious holidays.
Therefore, we request further clarification on how what we propose is any different.
UCLan states on the Oasis Faith and Spirituality Centre website that it seeks to “encourage an awareness of and participation in faith communities in their observances and practices.”
Having an inclusive environment and provision on campus, in which students can see themselves reflected, is integral to creating a sense of belonging amongst all students, regardless of background.
A culturally appropriate food offer for Muslim students during Ramadan would be a wonderful step in creating that sense of belonging and community amongst this group, especially at a time where students need to come together, not drift apart. Muslim students will be fasting for more than 16 hours a day and will need food that can help them sustain energy.
Moving to a general food offer for all students, without halal provision, feels like a step backwards in our work towards a more inclusive institution.
Targeted interventions like this play an incredibly important role in tackling long standing issues like the BAME awarding gap and progression. As a widening participation institution, with commitments in its Access and Participation Plan to drastically reduce the awarding gap between BAME and white students, the University’s decision seems contradictory to a lot of the targets set and claims made.
We need to show the University what our students really think.
Ramadan is a time to bring #studentstogether not drift apart.
Zuleikha Chikh – UCLan Students’ Union President