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Students having a cow over Holy Cow removal

As the ODE reported on Jan. 23, the university has decided not to renew the lease of Holy Cow Cafe – the long-standing vegan/vegetarian restaurant in the EMU; Holy Cow is slated to be replaced by Laughing Planet Cafe.

The decision came as a surprise to many, including the owner of Holy Cow, Kathee Lavine, who said that she had “been led to believe we were doing a good job.” A committee composed of five EMU employees and one university student thought differently; they unanimously voted to replace the restaurant. EMU Food Services Coordinator John Costello said that Laughing Planet Cafe “could provide everything Holy Cow could do in terms of organic, vegetarian food, and more.”

Needless to say, this has made many vegan/vegetarians on campus very unhappy. The ten year-0ld restaurant is popular among students for its commitment to local business and produce, as well as its sustainable business practices. While Laughing Planet Cafe also caters to the non-meat crowd, it is a non-local chain that serves chicken in some of its dishes. An impromptu campaign to save Holy Cow has sprang up on campus. For example, here’s the Facebook group, The Holy Cow Nation. Holy Cow supporters have been attending EMU meetings, rustling up petition signatures and generally setting up a popular front.

However, not everyone is on Holy Cow’s side. The ODE issued an editorial yesterday lauding the decision to bring in Laughing Planet Cafe; in fact, it took a surprisingly capitalist stance, urging businesses like Holy Cow to get with the times, lest they too be bitch-slapped by the invisible hand. Here’s a snippet:

Hippie goodness and old-fashioned business practices have to pick up on the hawkish side of sustainable business if they’re going to survive the next 10 years. And we want them to, but in cases of highly prized lease space, karma can’t beat the bottom line of aggressive practices and selling more tofu better than the next gal.

The editorial inspired a glut of letters, including this one by Carrie Packwood Freeman. She laments the ODE’s use of things like “economics” and “money” to measure progress:

The editorial’s very limited version of “progress” seen only in economic terms seems more fitting in the Commentator or the Wall Street Journal and not our student paper. If Holy Cow is more sustainable, more organic, more local, and more vegetarian then that is the kind of progress we need right now more than ever

First of all, I resent being lumped in with the WSJ. Second, I resent the idea that the Daily Emerald is “our student paper,” as if it is somehow beholden to or representative of the student body. Third, I resent the idea that the Commentator only measures progress in economic terms; we have plenty of other measures of progress, such as how drunk we are at the moment or how many hate letters we receive per issue.

Food politics aside, the decision to ax the Holy Cow has also raised questions of just how much say, if any, students have in their own campus. Much like beleaguered Mac Court, the restaurant seems to be headed for the chopping block no matter how much students protest. For example, here’s Costello again in the ODE article:

Costello said Holy Cow presented a petition with 380 signatures and he received about 15 letters and e-mails in support of keeping Holy Cow in the EMU.

“We took note of that, but it wasn’t enough to sway us. … It’s clear Holy Cow has some support,” he said.

Popular with students? Long history with the university? Oh well, give it the boot!

I will soon be talking to Robert Kirkpatrick*, the creator of the Facebook group, about the whole megillah, so expect a more detailed report forthwith.

*Full disclosure: I’m good friends with Kirkpatrick, but we couldn’t disagree more about politics; in fact, Kirkpatrick is a dirty pinko, and I shake my fist in his general direction.

  1. […] for Reusable Bags. According to student Robert Kirkpatrick, who is currently involved in the Holy Cow Crusade, the coalition hopes to confront the “general prickishness of the administration” (i.e. […]

  2. Timothy says:

    Wait, who cares about hippie food? Oh right, hippies…

  3. Mr. Poindexter says:

    What ever happened to investigative journalism? Is it just a coincidence that the EMU employee who chose LP has the same last name as the owner of LP? I think not.

  4. Niedermeyer says:

    Eugene has some decent BBQ places, but nothing compares with the abundance of cheap, dank BBQ in North Portland. The other day I had a chicken sandwich with coleslaw in it, and it had huge chunks of fresh fennel and fresh ginger in it… not very traditional but mindblowingly delicious.

  5. Timothy says:

    Olly, YES! That is food made of WIN. Best BBQ I’ve had outside of Texas. Some of the best collard greens I’ve had anywhere.

  6. Chris says:

    I went to a Laughing Planet in Portland and some fat woman was yelling at the employees. I guess she was a boss, but she was really rippin into a gal in front of customers. Maybe they don’t laugh much there, but I don’t want to deal with that crap when I am eating. If that is how they treat their employees, thay can stay out of the EMU.

  7. Vincent says:

    Yeah, Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen is amazing. BBQ King is that guy with the little trailer that used to be parked out in the Les Schwab parking lot on 18th street on weekends. He’d always show up at the campus street fair, too. His food is also good.

  8. Olly says:

    “BBQ King the guy who ran food for Joe

  9. Timothy says:

    BBQ King the guy who ran food for Joe’s back in the day before it descended into a pit of Jogger’s-like suckitude? Because, yeah, THAT GUY.

  10. T says:

    CJ: I wasn’t getting on you. It’s easy to repeat what the ODE is reporting without calling bullshit on every bit of logic because, if you did that, your posts would be 8,000 words long. I was more annoyed with the editorial, which was not very good.

  11. Vincent. says:

    Others, like Timothy, are expressing their outrage that the BBQ King isn’t moving into the space.

    Actually, I’m pretty outraged that the BBQ King isn’t moving into that space, too. Okay. Who wants to set up camp outside of Johnson Hall with me.

    (and no, “set up camp outside ‘Johnson Hall’ is not a double entendre)

  12. CJ Ciaramella says:

    I agree with you on both points. I probably should have clarified some of the stuff about Laughing Planet. Technically, it is a chain but not one of those evil, franchise monsters that pop on every corner. And yes, it is environmentally responsible, mostly vegetarian/vegan and (from what I hear) delicious.

    I think people are more pissed that Holy Cow is getting the boot, not so much that Laughing Planet is moving in.

  13. T says:

    Um, Laughing Planet is a local business, if you consider Portland to be local. I actually interviewed one of the company’s principles the other day, Franz Spielvogel, and he said the main reason the company moved to Portland (from, I think, Indiana) was because of the state’s reputation for growth in its sustainable business clusters. The company’s pretty environmentally responsible. I mean, this isn’t fucking McDonald’s.

    Further: That ODE editorial is absolutely atrocious — mealey mouthed, ungrammatical, unclear, poorly written, sort of pointless … depressing, frankly. Thank God those things are unsigned.

  14. Sakaki says:

    Except Rennie’s, of course.

    And I would, except I’m not on campus anymore…well, as of right now. Depends on if I get a FT position on campus. Besides, the Conservatives of campus are friends with Kyle McKenzie. The schnockering will be masterful.

  15. Sakaki said:

    “I think the Conservatives on campus need to riot.

    Shame there are only about 15 or so on campus now.”

    Nah, you guys just need to hang out with the rugby team. We have a mini-riot every time we get a couple beers in us. Some of the alumni are permanently 86’d from every campus bar.

  16. Gyt says:

    What’s the dirt on this? How come there isn’t any data or reasons given?

    How did the Holy Cow screw up so bad? I demand answers media!

  17. Sakaki says:

    I think the Conservatives on campus need to riot.

    Shame there are only about 15 or so on campus now.

  18. Vincent. says:

    Yeah. No riots this year, that I know of. Even the fabled Halloween Riots failed to materialize this year.

  19. Timothy says:

    Man. Are they all out of riots, too?

  20. Vincent says:

    That kind of behavior hasn’t seemed very prevalent lately. Seems to me back in 2000-2002 one couldn’t go a week without some kind of mass tantrum being thrown on campus. The best they can muster these days is like… a handful of hippies with drums shouting “POWER TO THE PEOPLE” in the EMU Amphitheatre.

  21. Timothy says:

    I bet camping out on Johnson Hall’s lawn while protesting Nike’s treatment of Holy Cow workers would work….

  22. Vincent says:

    I’ve always thought that Holy Cow had pretty good food, though their prices were sometimes a bit steep. Still, it’s too bad they’re being forced out, especially since there seems to be a pretty large contingent of students who’d prefer it if they were able to stay.

    But as others have noted, paying heed to the “voice of the students” is something the University scarcely even pays lip service to anymore. After all, it’s much easier to present things as a fait accompli and weather a brief period of controversy than actually run the risk of having plans disrupted by those pesky students.

  23. CJ Ciaramella says:

    Yeah, I could care less about the food issue, but it just seems like another case of the administration “ruling from on high.” Holy Cow is pretty dedicated to the university, and, while another restaurant may do better financially, I think they at least deserved a little more consideration and student input. Remember the amount of discussion that happened when the baseball and competitive cheer teams were added? None of that happened this time around.

  24. Timothy says:

    Is Dusty still running the EMU? The real issue is that the university administration doesn’t actually give two shits about what students want. Then again, I’m all for axing a restaurant if it irritates hippies, but unless they’re replacing it with a barbeque joint it’s not really a step forward.

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