By Rachel Walsh
LOGOS ASSISTANT EDITOR
Nearly 1,000 University of the Incarnate Word students, staff and faculty say they’re willing to donate $8 from their Sodexo meal plan to help build a school in Africa. However, Sodexo General Manager Tony Allen told the Logos he was “not interested” in commenting on the situation or discussing why the two groups seem to have reached an impasse.
Project Africa founder Cisse Drame, a psychology major with roots in Mali, Africa said she first proposed the idea last April but has met with resistance. So she started a petition and has collected a growing list of names.
The group, which is trying to raise $35,000 to build a Mali school where an estimated 90 percent of the population is illiterate, has $8,000 in hand, primarily through student donations. The organization operates through BuildOn, a national, nonprofit organization based in Chicago.
Sodexo “has consistently avoided dialogue,” Drame said. “It’s time for students have to say. Give us the right to choose what to do with our own money.”
Seven Project Africa members, as well as their faculty adviser, Dr. John Velasquez, attended the Food Services Committee meeting Monday, Feb. 8, to state their case. Project Africa member Zach Knight said the group “wanted to show you (Sodexo) we’re serious” and said if each student at UIW donated $5, the organization would surpass its goal. Students have already paid for meal plans, so it should not be difficult for them to allot $8 from the plan for Project Africa.
Velasquez emphasized students would be able to feel personally involved with the organization’s cause and said the idea “covers all the bases.” “I don’t think you guys have fully thought it through,” Allen said, citing the technical challenges of diverting funds from meal plans.
Dr. Renee Moore, dean of Campus Life and chair of the Food Services Committee, said Project Africa’s “endeavor is admirable” and a “negotiable issue,” but cautioned the group that more discussion would be necessary. She offered to set up meetings for Sodexo and Project Africa to talk further.
“I think we can negotiate something,” Drame said.