Path to Grape Referendum Has Many Unexpected Turns

The recent controversy surrounding grapes has surprised even the most savvy pundits with its bizarre twists and unexpected turns. The following is a sampling of some of the events that have led to today's referendum.


The United Farm Workers (UFW) calls for a national boycott of table grapes, citing low wages for workers and protesting the policies of Republican California Governor George Duekmejian. The boycott is the third the union has called in its history.


Duke University bans grapes.


Urged on by students, Harvard Dining Services (HDS) bans grapes.


Duke University lifts ban on grapes.


Yale University students organize a petition against grapes and eventually the university bans grapes in its dining halls.

Four Stanford students go on a hunger strike to encourage the university to take a position in the debate.


Stanford University announces it will boycott table grapes.

Pressure from student groups forces Duke University to reintroduces its grape boycott.

HDS begins to receive comment cards from students requesting grapes.

May 1997

After discussions with the Harvard University Dining Action Committee (HUDAC), Michael Miller, HDS executive chef, decides to reintroduce grapes during Sunday brunches, effective Nov. 9.

October 28, 1997

The Harvard Crimson reports HDS' decision to lift the boycott against grapes.

October 30, 1997

HDS receives 11 feedback forms relating to the decision to reintroduce grapes. Ten are in favor of the boycott; one supports lifting it.

UNITE, a student activist group, sends out an e-mail message encouraging students to send feedback forms to HDS complaining about the decision to resume serving grapes. The Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) expresses concern as well.

November 7, 1997

In response to overwhelming student feedback, HDS decides to postpone serving grapes in dining halls until at least November 21, when a referendum will be held to decide the issue.

"Nothing like this has ever come up," said HDS project manager Alexandra E. McNitt.

The week of November 10, 1997

Fake posters proclaiming that a grape forum would be sponsored by the Undergraduate Council on Nov. 15 are plastered all over the dining halls and the Yard.

The posters list Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III as the forum moderator, but Epps denies any association with the group or the event.

According to Council President Lamelle D. Rawlins '99, the council did not plan the event, despite the claims made in the fliers.

Rawlins, Professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy of Religion Cornel R. West '74, HDS Dietitian Theresa Fung, syndicated columnist George F. Will, entertainer and activist Dolores O'Riordan and Richard E. Rominger, deputy secretary of agriculture, are all listed as speakers in the grape forum. None had any plans to take part in such an event.

November 13, 1997

New posters, announcing a grape forum protest, immediately preceding the grape forum, are added to the original posters.

The person or persons responsible for the posters have yet to be identified.

November 15, 1997

A disagreement over the grape boycott between a member of Raza, an association of Chicano students, and a member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Association (HRRA) escalates into an e-mail exchange between the two organizations. Gonzalo C. Martinez '98, president of Raza, says later that the e-mails resolved any tension between Raza and HRRA.

November 16, 1997

A resolution to endorse a "no" vote in the Nov. 21 grape referendum fails at council meeting.

November 17, 1997

Members of the ad hoc Grape Coalition, which wants to remove the boycott, meet in advance of the upcoming referendum. More than 20 students attend the planning session, led by Adam R. Kovacevich '99, chair of the Coalition and son of a California grape grower.

November 18, 1997

HDS adds four new voting options to the referendum ballot after students point out that not all table grapes are grown in California, and that foreign grape producers--notably Chilean growers, who supply most of the winter demand for grapes-would not be subject to the UFW boycott.

The four new options are:

I support only the serving of Chilean grapes in the dining halls.

I support only the serving of Chilean grapes and organic grapes in the dining halls.

I support only the serving of California grapes in the dining halls if they are picked by a UFW member.

I support only the serving of California grapes in the dining halls if they are picked by a UFW member or [grapes that] come from Chile.

November 19, 1997

Kovacevich debates Roel Saldivar '01, a member of Raza, over the grape issue in an event sponsored by the Harvard Political Union.

Students clutching small candles gather in the evening on the steps of Memorial Church for a vigil to recognize the plight of workers in the grape field of California.

November 20, 1997

In response to a flurry of student protests over the four new voting options, HDS decides to postpone the referendum.

"There's no way we could have done this right and still do it tomorrow," McNitt says.

November 24, 1997

Leaders of various pro-grape and anti-grape student groups meet with HDS to resolve the confusion caused by the six option ballot.

November 25, 1997

After continued talks with student leaders, HDS releases a new ballot with two options:

* YES, I believe Dining Services should serve grapes of any kind.

* NO, I believe Dining Services should not serve grapes unless and until grapes become available with a United Farm Workers (UFW) union label.

HDS reschedules the referendum for Dec. 3. Student leaders representing pro-grape and anti-grape groups endorse a moratorium on campaigning in the dining halls on the day of the vote. Leaders also agree that "the out-come in the Great Grape Referendum represents the end of the issue, and in no way represents a position on the part of Harvard University or its departments," according to HDS.

December 3, 1997

Referendum voting takes place today in undergraduate dining halls throughout the day. Students will vote electronically using their Harvard ID card. There will be no absentee ballots.

--Caitlin E. Anderson, Christopher T. Boyd, Tara L. Colon, Jenny E. Heller, Rosalind S. Helderman, Lisa B. Keyfetz, Caille M. Millner, Nicholas A. Nash, Jacqueline A. Newmyer and Laura L. Tarter contributed to the reporting of this story.