New and expanded foods and facilities on campus reflect diverse needs

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The University is committed to a welcoming and respectful campus climate for all. To that end, this fall, the Twin Cities campus community will have several new or expanded options available: the addition of kosher, halal, vegan and vegetarian foods; installation of multi-purpose stations that can be used for feet washing and other purposes; and continued progress on gender neutral restrooms and lactation spaces.


Both kosher and halal food options will be available, along with vegetarian and vegan options:

  • Kosher options will include kosher fresh salads and sandwiches from Prime Deli in the Coffman Memorial Union (CMU) Marketplace. Frozen certified Kosher meals will also be available in the Marketplace and in all residence hall dining rooms.
  • Halal options will be available in the CMU Marketplace and the option to request halal chicken breasts will be offered in all residence hall dining rooms.
  • Vegetarian and vegan options are available. Two main vegan options will be offered in all residence halls and Middlebrook will have dedicated allergen stations.

"We are extremely grateful to the U for hearing our community's concerns and taking action,” said Benjie Kaplan, executive director, Minnesota Hillel. “Dietary restrictions should not cause any student to be marginalized, and this change helps the University continue to be warm, welcoming and inclusive to all."

These additions have been long in the making. M Dining worked with a variety of groups on campus to bring these changes to fruition, including the Student Senate, Muslim Student Association, Hillel, and Chabad.

“We are excited about these new additions to our dining program and the ability to serve students eating kosher and halal without the need to travel off campus,” said Chris Elrod, M Dining marketing manager. “Additional items will be added with the success of the program, and our continued partnership with the University and student groups will help determine which direction we go.”

Facilities available for foot washing

For some time, the U has had issues with the use of restroom sinks for other than hand washing in some campus buildings. It has become obvious that a number of University students and employees who are Muslim need to have the ability to wash their feet several times in the course of the day, which is difficult to do in a conventional restroom sink while maintaining sanitation and safety for all users. 

To address this issue, plans are underway to provide benches, paper towel dispensers and floor sinks in existing facilities. Having these multi-use facilities available will prevent standing water on floors and structural stress to sinks, as well as provide convenience to members of the University community who need to wash their feet or desire privacy.

The first facility is nearly ready for use in the Mayo Building, Room 200-6, and the University is identifying other possible locations on campus. All spaces will be multi-use and open to everyone. 

Gender neutral restrooms

The University has also been at work over the past two years to increase the number of gender neutral restrooms across campus. 

There are now more than 300 gender neutral restrooms in public spaces on campus and approximately 100 more in spaces with controlled access areas such as departments.

This effort is the culmination of the long advocacy of the University's Trans Advisory and Action Team (formerly the Transgender Commission) and the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life (formerly GLBTA Program's Office), as well resolutions last year from the U Senate and the Council of Graduate Students.

“We are excited to see more gender neutral restrooms on campus,” said Stef Wilenchek, director, Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life. “For many trans and gender nonconforming people, finding a bathroom that feels safe to enter without fear of harassment, intimidation, or violence is a day to day challenge. The more gender neutral restroom spaces we have on campus, the more welcoming and safer environment we can help create." 

Lactation spaces

Ensuring that nursing parents are able to return to work after their leaves and to continue to pump to provide breast milk for their babies is an important way to support working parents. Dedicated lactation spaces give those parents a safe, clean, and private space in which to pump.

There are now 31 of those spaces on campus.

The Lactation Advocacy  Committee (LAC) has been a strong voice for parents and lactation resources on campus since 2009. The LAC invites any member of the U of M community to be a volunteer. More information can be found here.

“The ad-hoc Lactation Advocacy Committee has worked for nearly a decade to improve and expand lactation resources on campus,” said Susan Warfield, program director, the Student Parent HELP Center and co-founder and former chair of the committee. “The LAC is committed to this work due to the documented, profound positive impact to employee, child and work productivity when lactation spaces are provided and employees are supported in their commitment to breastfeed.”

The Office of Human Resources also provides information on lactation and breastfeeding support on their website.

To locate the nearest gender-neutral restroom or lactation space, go to the Twin Cities Interactive Map and click on the “Inclusivity” button.

“Each and every day University Services is on the front lines, striving to make our campus welcoming and accessible for all, said Mike Berthelsen, interim vice president, University Services. “We listen to the feedback of the University community, and when appropriate, work with partners across the institution to find solutions to meet the needs of everyone on campus, students, faculty and staff alike.”



"Perspectives" stories are the views and opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect any official position of the University of Minnesota.