Commentary | Boycott McGill food services

If you support the Architecture Café and the future of student-run initiatives on campus, you should boycott McGill Food Services. Most of you are likely aware of the broad strokes of the issue: the administration closed the last full-service student-run café on campus over the summer without consultation; they refuse to show us the financial records while claiming that Arch Café was in the red; they refuse to “revisit the issue” in spite of popular support across different faculties and interest groups on campus; and they belittled our protest on Wednesday, effectively calling us “students being students.”

There’s a lot of momentum behind the drive to reopen Arch Café, which means we should escalate our actions, not take the administration’s dismissal lying down. An organized boycott is one way of letting the administration know that we support student-run initiatives on campus. If it’s large enough, a boycott could put the struggle for such initiatives in the limelight. The Montreal Gazette has written two stories on the Arch Café debate, and rumour has it that Maclean’s may be interested as well.

Even if you never went to Arch, you should still support a boycott because this is ultimately about more than one café – the issue at stake is the hegemonic nature of McGill’s food services and the corporate attitudes of our current administration.

To use an example, at 2 a.m. Thursday morning I started a Facebook boycott event half-jokingly. Within 12 hours it had 1,000 members (at press time, around 1,700; though it won’t mean much unless they are serious). Wall posts were very telling about the universal anger felt by students: while the initial comments concerned Arch, within a few hours they turned to a critique of corporatization of campus and absence of student consultation. There were angry posts about the overpriced and bland food provided by Aramark, McGill’s corporate supplier, as well as its questionable labour practices. Rather than let us have an alternative to Aramark (who just this year replaced Chartwells), the administration has systematically shut down any non-corporate food services.

The best places to start boycotting are faculty and library cafeterias like the Redpath Oasis, or anywhere you see the Martlet meal plan sign. And if you boycott, you won’t be alone. Midnight Kitchen is hosting an organizational meeting today about how to proceed in support of Architecture Café (at 7 p.m. in Shatner). The Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Council voted Wednesday to work with SSMU and the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) on a one-day boycott; the EUS and SSMU Councils will likely debate similar motions this week. Even if faculty societies and Midnight Kitchen don’t provide food, though, boycotting isn’t that hard: there are still alternatives on or near campus, none quite as nice as Arch, but certainly cheaper than Aramark’s foodstuffs.

Faculty food stands like AUS Snax, the Management Undergraduate Society store Dave’s, and EUS’s Frostbite are still student-run and serve fair trade coffee for half the price of the McGill cafeterias. If you want a meal, the Rabbit Hole Café and Midnight Kitchen provide vegetarian and vegan lunches (respectively) for a small donation, while the SSMU cafeteria and Thomson House provide a wider variety. And there are still places to eat across the street from school like McGill Pizza and Super Sandwich. You could even bring your own lunch!
In the meantime, let Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Morton J. Mendelson, the administration’s point man on Architecture Café, know that you are boycotting: email morton.mendelson@mcgill.ca, or drop off a hard copy at the Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Room 621, James Administration, 845 Sherbrooke O.

Erin Hale is a U3 Philosophy student and a former Daily editor. Write her at erin.hale@mail.mcgill.ca.


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