Today's HDS Vote On Grapes Raises Complex Issues


The Great Grape Referendum is finally here.

After the cancellation of a referendum planned for Nov. 21, two revisions of the ballot options, plenty of juicy debate on campus and even a grape vigil on the steps of Memorial Church, students will decide the fate of grapes at Harvard today in an all-day referendum in all undergraduate dining halls.

According to Harvard Dining Services (HDS), students will choose electronically between the following two ballot options as they swipe their Harvard ID cards:

* 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.

Although no absentee ballots will be offered, students will be able to vote during either breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The two options represent a compromise between HDS and student leaders, who felt the proposed six option ballot--which include choices such as "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"--would confuse most students.

If a majority of students vote for the "Yes" option, HDS will reverse its 1992 ban on table grapes and resume serving grapes at Sunday brunches. Michael Miller, executive chef at HDS, estimated that HDS would purchase about 750 pounds of grapes each time they are served--between 32 and 38 boxes a week.

On the other hand, if a majority of students vote for the "No" option, Harvard will continue its boycott of non-UFW approved growers, while keeping open the possibility of serving grapes that have been approved.

Until recently, most involved with the debate assumed that a vote for only UFW approved grapes would, from a practical standpoint, result in an effective ban on grapes, since only one grape grower in California--Nash-De Camp--has signed an agreement with the UFW, according to Mark Grossman, director of the UFW's press division and Cesar Chavez's press secretary from 1975 to 1993.

Even if Nash-De Camp were to produce enough grapes for Harvard's consumption, it would be next to impossible, it was thought, to obtain a pure supply of Nash-De Camp grapes through Harvard's produce supplier, Costa Fruit and Produce.

According to Brad Woodgate, Costa's vice president, Costa purchases grapes from about 50 growers and distributors.

However, recent findings by The Crimson indicate the possibility of purchasing UFW approved grapes is quite real.

In an interview last week with The Crimson, Michael Shuklian, a sales manager at Nash-De Camp, said "there wouldn't be a problem with us trying to set up" a contract to sell grapes directly to Harvard.

Although many of Nash-De Camp's customers are supermarkets that provide their own transportation, the company has its a transportation department and could deliver the grapes to Harvard, according to Shuklian.