When the 266 graduates of the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS) walk at commencement this year, they will be walking at the nation’s most sustainable graduation yet. The school will make history as the first institute of higher education to hold a 100% vegan graduation ceremony, featuring plant-based foods from around the globe — and not a meat or dairy product in sight.
MIIS already operates on a 50/50 policy, which mandates that at least half of the fare offered at school events must be vegan. But the new plan takes that policy a step further by excluding animal products from the ceremony altogether. The commencement menu will feature vegan cuisine including hummus and falafel, potato samosas, vegetarian sushi, cashew-based cheeses donated by Miyoko and platters of vegan desserts.
Jason Scorse, who chairs the institute’s International Environmental Policy program, is among those leading the initiative. He sees meat and dairy reduction at MIIS events as an invaluable practice of sustainability, one that works in tandem with Middlebury’s commitment to divestment from fossil fuels and its other environmental projects.
“I don’t think most people realize how absolutely devastating the meat and dairy industry is to the ecology of the planet, and also to human health,” he said in an interview with the Campus. “Major reductions of meat and dairy as key food industries in the future is really key for sustainability.”
Scorse hopes the menu’s international focus will expose graduates and their families to the wide variety of vegan food, and will encourage them to incorporate plant-based products into their everyday lives.
“I think a lot of people are actually going to find out that they really like the stuff and that they might want to go and pursue some of this on their own,” he said. “No matter what you eat, even if you’re a hardcore meat eater, you should be celebrating this, because this is going to be an interesting, fun opportunity to learn more and to see how to incorporate these kind of products into your lifestyle.”
Not everyone at MIIS is excited about the plan. There’s a small contingent of students that is outspokenly opposed to the initiative, and has been circulating a petition against it. But Scorse isn’t fazed.
“As an institution of higher learning, we’re trying to be innovative and trying to promote policies and behaviors that are going to hep build a sustainable planet,” he said. “And that’s really core to Middlebury’s ethics and values.
“This isn’t about vegans descending on campus and taking over,” he added. “It’s about putting sustainability into practice and leading by example. It should be exciting and fun.”