Trinity partners with Aramark-owned Avoca, despite student opposition

The products have been “designed exclusively” for Trinity’s gift shops

Aramark-owned Avoca Handweavers products are newly available for purchase in Trinity’s gift shops, despite student opposition to the presence of the Aramark Corporation on campus. The “luxury scarves and blankets” are on sale both online and in the on-campus gift shop in the Old Library. Trinity has advertised the products on its social media pages in recent weeks.

According to Trinity’s gift shop website, they have “collaborated with Avoca Handweavers to present an exclusive range [of products]”. They also suggest that these products are “inspired by Trinity’s iconic buildings, architecture, and alumni”, using Jonathan Swift, a former Trinity academic as an example.

Speaking to Trinity News, co-founder of Aramark Off Our Campus campaign group, Jessie Dolliver, stated that she was “absolutely shocked when [she] learned that Trinity is not only selling Avoca products on campus, but has actually collaborated with the company to create the line of products”.

Aramark, a catering company, currently operates Westland Eats in the Hamilton building. The company also operates direct provision centres Cork, Clare, and Westmeath, for which it has come under criticism.

Dolliver went on to say that “between Aramark Off Our Campus and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) protesting outside Avoca last year, I think students have made it abundantly clear that they don’t want to be associated with a company as unethical as Aramark”.

According to Dolliver, “Trinity selling Aramark products suggests that they either don’t know the damage they are doing or that they don’t care, neither of which is acceptable. Damage caused by ignorance is not more forgivable.”

The move follows protests last week which saw a group of students involved in Aramark Off Our Campus assemble outside of Westland Eats in the Hamilton Building. Students held signs that read “Aramark Profits from Human Suffering” and “Westland Eats Funds Refugee Imprisonment”. This was the second demonstration that students have held this year on the issue.

Trinity currently has a contract with Aramark to provide catering services, which is set to expire in 2019. Students are campaigning for College to allow the contract to expire rather than extending it. The contract has the option to be extended until 2021.

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) are mandated to lobby College to prevent an extension of the contract, following a vote at a Council meeting last year.

Trinity students began their protests against the organisation in January 2018, with protestors also gathering outside Westland Eats in the Hamilton. This followed a USI protest outside Avoca on Suffolk Street with the intention of ending ties with the organisation. Aramark purchased Avoca for €59.9 million in 2015.

USI recently passed a motion to boycott Aramark and to assist member organisations in campaigning for the removal of Aramark-operated services on university campuses. Students’ unions such as those in University of Limerick (UL) and University College Dublin (UCD) have also engaged in such boycotts.

Speaking to Trinity News at the time of the vote, USI President Síona Cahill noted: “We need to do everything we can to highlight what is going on in DP [direct provision]. The student movement needs to be part of invigorating public consciousness in what is going to be a shame on the already scarred patchwork quilt of our history.”

Aramark has previously spoken to Trinity News and said that they “respect the right to protest but regrets that a very small number of students have chosen to demonstrate outside Westland Eats on Trinity College campus as part of a larger student protest against direct provision”. They also pointed out that “direct provision is a government policy and Aramark has no influence in this regard”.

According to a Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) report released in 2016, Aramark has been paid €5.2 million by the state for its work in the direct provision system. Between the beginning of their work in the direct provision centres and 2010, the organisation received €16 million from the Irish government.

It has also been noted in the past that there has been many complaints about the treatment of those living in these direct provision centres. In previous years there have been hunger strikes in Knockalisheen, Co. Clare and Lissywollen, Co. Westmeath. These strikes followed residents being hospitalised with gastroenteritis as a result of poorly produced food, which is provided by Aramark.

When asked its position on the selling of Aramark products in its gift shops despite Aramark Off Our Campus and TCDSU opposition, College did not respond to Trinity News.

This is one of Trinity’s collaborations with retail organisations, with CarveOn, Caulfield Country Boards, and Emerald Crystal also featuring on the website. The products are woven in Avoca Village in County Wicklow.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is the current Assistant Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister Law student, and a former Deputy News Editor.