Using chicken wings to demonstrate student self-governance

A Twitter campaign turns into a weekly dining hall treat

lf-WahooWingWednesday-CourtesyAlexCintron

As a result of Cintron's Twitter campaign, Wings have temporarily been added to Fresh Food Co.'s regular meal rotation.

Courtesy Alex Cintron

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. For third-year College student Alex Cintron, this saying carries many layers of meaning relating to the organization he founded last semester, Wings for Wahoos. After hearing the story of a student who successfully persuaded University Dining Services via social media to serve waffles on her birthday, Cintron wondered just how responsive University Dining could be to student input.

Cintron tweeted at University Dining, proposing a weekly tradition in which the dining halls would serve chicken wings every Wednesday. Friends favorited and retweeted his request and four days later, Aramark, the University’s dining service, responded and “Wing Wednesday” was born. The tradition began last semester and picked up again this semester in Newcomb Dining Hall. Cintron’s simple tweet was a win and has resulted in two semesters’ worth of students having the option of chicken wings for dinner.

Cintron emphasized that what seems like a trivial idea has larger consequences for students’ perceptions of University Dining’s responsiveness and even the University administration.

“Wings for Wahoos, at its core, started off as a test of whether dining was responsive to student desires,” Cintron said. “If a student asked [University] Dining to do something, would they do it? Just for any regular student. And they did. I think Wings for Wahoos shows that, one, [University] Dining is responsive, and two, that anybody can really take something and take it to a degree they didn’t think they could have.”

As Vice President for Administration on Student Council, Cintron realized University Dining was looking for ways to engage with the student body, particularly through social media. Wings for Wahoos has become a vehicle for collaboration between the Council and Aramark. 

“It’s enabled me to create something called the Student Dining Advisory Board,” Cintron said. “Students are going to be able to make executive decisions as [they] relate to dining.” 

He hopes the SDAB will meet biweekly with Aramark employees to discuss student concerns regarding the state of University Dining. 

Rebecca Soistmann, a third-year College student and Vice President of Third Year Council, believes Wings for Wahoos has a positive impact on both University Dining and students.

“It looks good on them to be responding to students — that they’re accepting and willing to hear what students want in terms of food,” Soistmann said.

Cintron also uses Wings for Wahoos as a platform on social media to spread awareness of the beauties of the buffalo wing. He created a “wingsta,” or wing-related Instagram account, on which he posts reviews of wings from local Charlottesville restaurants. 

Cintron isn’t bothered by some thinking Wings for Wahoos is trivial. 

“While this may not be an example of us getting gender-neutral housing or tackling food insecurity, which are things I’m working on, Wahoo Wing Wednesday is an example of student self-governance in action,” Cintron said. 

Student self-governance is a hallmark of student life at the University, and Cintron has found his unique methods to be successful. 

“A lot of the time, if you want something to get done, you have to ask for it,” Cintron said. “It could be as unconventional as a Tweet.”

Soistmann, who was part of the initial group of students excited about Wings for Wahoos, also voiced a similar opinion.

“If you have something you want to change at U.Va., you can get a group of people together and make it happen,” Soistmann said. “We, as students at the University, have the agency to make change, even if you come in thinking ‘I’m just a student.’ You still have as much agency as an administrator here.”  

Aramark Marketing Manager Scott Aebersold also noted the importance of the collaboration between students and Dining Services. 

“For U.Va. Dining, it is all about building the student experience,” Aebersold said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “We encourage students to collaborate with us on events like we have done with the Latinx Student Alliance group and their theme meal in our dining halls, as well as just featuring foods that U.Va. students want to see, like the wings at Newcomb.”

Wings for Wahoos has been a success, and there are plans to expand the campaign.

“As of right now we have currently been testing out our buffalo cauliflower wings which is a great alternative to the normal wings and offers a vegetarian alternative,” Aebersold said. “As we continue to test and develop with student buy-in, we can always look to expand the program.”

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