When I first enrolled in classes at Santa Clara University (SCU), I found out that I had been pre-registered for an English class for two quarters at night. I hadn’t the slightest idea of what the class was about, but I initially disliked the class simply because of the timing of it. Upon first entering the class on my first day of college, my mind was elsewhere. I tuned out and wanted nothing more than to go back to my room and hang out with the people who lived near me in my dorm. However, as the class progressed, I found myself increasingly intrigued with the subject matter. The first topic we covered in class was the food industry. To do this, we started by watching multiple short films, including “This is Water,” an excerpt from David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, and “Fed Up,” a short documentary about obesity and the food industry. These films began to pique my interest – I began to wonder where the class would go next.
A couple weeks into the class, we began reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I had seen videos and read articles on animal abuse in the food industry in the past, but the level of detail that Foer provided had a much more significant impact than anything I had seen or heard before. More so than the animal abuse, the environmental implications of animal agriculture and the corruption of the industry by lobbyists in major companies bothered me the most (Foer). After reading the book, we also watched Cowspiracy, a documentary by Kip Anderson that revealed the extreme effort by the industry to hide the horrors of the industry from the general public. Together, all this information began to have a significant impact on me.
Growing up, my eating habits constantly changed. For the first several years of my life, my diet consisted of very few things. I was afraid of eating almost anything, so I was limited to eating pasta with tomato sauce or butter, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, waffles and microwavable mini-pancakes. Eventually, my mother gave up on this diet and forced me to try different foods. To my surprise, I liked just about everything. From then on, I was happy to eat anything that my mother put in front of me, though my preferences remained with pasta and chicken for the most part. When I came to SCU, I was happy to see that both chicken and pasta were widely available throughout the Benson Center, where the school’s dining hall was located. However, throughout this class I began to question my eating habits, and the thought of becoming vegetarian or vegan actually crossed my mind. I had never known just how awful the food industry was, and I wanted to make an impact however I could. Being the adventurous person I am, I decided to try going vegan for a time.
I realized soon after trying veganism that SCU’s vegan options were extremely limited. In the Benson Center, there are five main food stations: The Bistro, Sauté, La Parilla, 540º, and Tailgaters. The problem with being vegan at SCU is that nearly all of these places use some animal ingredients in nearly all of some of their food. The Bistro offers a daily special, which includes a vegetarian option, but the kind of food is unpredictable. At Sauté, you can get salads or pasta with the veggies of your choice, but the dressing and sauce options for each are unclear about their ingredients. La Parilla serves Mexican cuisine, which unfortunately features different types of meat, sour cream, and cheese in many of the options available. Tailgaters primarily serves burgers and fries, though veggie burgers are available. I sadly made the rookie mistake of not mentioning “no cheese” and “no sauce” on my burger, so I was unable to eat my burger the first time I ordered it. Finally, 540º serves pizza and pasta, where the only option for a vegan dish is to get pasta with marinara sauce. After about two weeks of being vegan, I decided that it was too difficult to continue being vegan, so I tried going vegetarian. To my pleasure, there were plentiful vegetarian options available in the Benson Center, so I continued being vegetarian for several months after.
At the start of the winter quarter, the class began to transition away from violence in the food industry toward violence in general. We read Dave Cullen’s Columbine, a graphic, detailed account of the Columbine High School shooting and an in-depth analysis of the two killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. It was terrifying to see the two teenagers, seemingly just like any of my friends and classmates from high school, come up with a detailed, horrifyingly brutal plot to kill as many people as possible at their high school before turning their guns on themselves. Reading this book and watching Bowling for Columbine, a documentary by Michael Moore on the Columbine shooting and the greater problem of gun violence in America, I was inspired to investigate the issue further.
I first researched different types of abuse and investigated the myths surrounding abuse cases. I found that there are many myths that exist surrounding abuse. For example, many people who I surveyed defined definitions only by physical or sexual abuse. Next, I took my research to Los Angeles (LA), my hometown, and looked at gang violence throughout the county. I found several articles about LA mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to end gang violence, and from my findings, the plan seems to perpetuate racial stereotypes. Just like in Straight Outta Compton, a recent film about the formation and endeavors of N.W.A. in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the anti-gang plan in LA involves increased police force and racial profiling. Only time will tell if changes will come in the anti-gang war in LA.
All in all, this was a successful class and the issues we investigated were pertinent both to the modern world and our future, and the newfound knowledge we have of these issues will help us be better, more informed citizens – I look forward to investigating new issues in the future.
- Foer, Jonathan S. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.