In 2016, Aramark signed a contract with Trinity, taking over a number of restaurants in the Hamilton. The College’s decision to do business with a company that runs direct provision centres was met with outrage from students: in 2017, Aramark Off Our Campus, a group of student campaigners, launched a boycott of the restaurants.
Through thick and thin in those months, the students fought for the boycott, and protested outside the restaurant. And this week the campaigners got their pay off: Aramark left our campus, a year before their contract with Trinity was meant to end.
This is a moral victory for the students who pushed back against Aramark. Direct provision is one of our government’s worst failures, and will undoubtedly be looked upon as disgraceful by future generations. It is therefore good news that Trinity will no longer be doing business with a company that profits from asylum seekers’ misery.
But it is also a win for student activism. Aramark Off Our Campus has shown that hard work and lots of noise can make a tangible difference. While the boycott is probably not the only reason Aramark has decided to cut its contract short, student activism undoubtedly played some role in the decision. Even if the campaign had quietened down by the time the restaurants closed, the outrage they stirred up will have stuck with students. The activists had succeeded in blackening the restaurant’s name.
But Aramark isn’t Trinity’s only dubious business partner. Take Sodexo, the company that runs eateries around Trinity’s campus, which has recently come under fire for failing to prevent breaches of the human rights of inmates in a prison it runs in England. Or the Al-Maktoum Foundation – linked to a Dubai regime not known for its support of human rights – which paid for the establishment of College’s Centre for Middle Eastern Studies.
Getting Aramark off our campus was a great win for students and a statement of intent to the College: students care about who their college does business with. But it should also inspire future activists to push back against Trinity’s questionable business partners. And there are plenty to choose from.