Akshayaa Chittibabu, a University of Connecticut ‘19 honors graduate and current Marshall Scholar at the University of Oxford, recently looked back upon her work with dining inclusivity activism on campus.
Chittibabu worked with UConn Dining Services to help create meals in dining halls that people with dietary restrictions preventing them from eating garlic and onion could consume. Many vegetarians cannot consume garlic and onion for religious reasons and as a result cannot enjoy full use of the dining halls, something Chittibabu felt was unjust.
“It struck me as unfair that these students were on meal plans but could not truly enjoy nutritious and fulfilling meals at the dining halls due to their restriction,” Chittibabu said. “Often, they had to prepare meals in their dorms or buy food outside of their meal plan just to eat complete meals.”
As Multiculturalism and Diversity Senator for USG, Chittibabu pushed for access and inclusion for everyone on campus. She was able to use her passion for access and inclusion when she was on President Herbst’s advisory council for race and diversity, putting the desires of the student body into action.
“I strongly believe that building a more inclusive campus starts with offering our diverse student body the necessities they need to be successful as students — and that starts with food,” Chittibabu said. “I’m grateful to Dining Services and President Herbst for being so receptive to my advocacy, and for working with me to develop 30 different meals for students with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain dietary restrictions.”
Chittibabu cites her time pushing for change on campus as a period of important lessons. To her, activism is not a one-off action; it is constant involvement and a commitment to long-term change.
“I’ve learned that the only way to create change and promote inclusion is to advocate for it, and then to follow up that advocacy with persistent action,” Chittibabu said. “For example, this effort took several months of talking to students and administration, and using every capacity available to me from social media to USG to advising the university president, but it was ultimately worth all of the work.”
Chittibabu recommends that any student looking to make an impact on campus get involved. She recognizes the role that student leadership plays and says that any student can make a difference.
“Use your platforms to create change; student leadership is a powerful platform and you have the ability to use your power to actually promote important causes,” Chittibabu said.
Thomas Alvarez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.