Over 300 students gathered outside Leacock yesterday to protest the closure of the Architecture Café, one of the last student-run food providers on campus. The protest began half an hour before the first Senate meeting of the year – which took place in Leacock 232 – and descended to the steps of the Macdonald-Harrington building (former home of the Arch Café), wound down to the Roddick Gates, and finally dissipated at the Y-intersection in the centre of campus.
Student senators walked through the rally outside Leacock, and SSMU President Zach Newburgh briefly addressed the hundreds of students from a coffee cart brought by Midnight Kitchen.
“Thank you for helping us send the message that we will not rest until the Architecture Café is reopened,” said Newburgh through a megaphone.
“This is just beginning,” he said.
A group of engineering students massed at the centre of the rally, banging hard hats together.
The Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) and the Architecture Students’ Association (ASA) have proposed that the café reopen under joint ASA and EUS management in a September 7 memorandum addressed to Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Morton Mendelson.
Former manager of the café Carly Roualt, ASA president Kyle Burrows, EUS president Daniel Keresteci, and president Newburgh are signatories to the memorandum.
“We have a history of running good establishments…of making a small profit,” said EUS VP Internal Allan Cyril. “[But] we still think [the Arch Café] was making money.”
Mendelson has insisted that the café was losing money, but has until now refused to make the Arch Café’s accounts public. Student signs called for the administration to open up the Arch Café’s accounts, writing “Show us the books: Full Disclosure,” and “Show us the numbers or give us back the Architecture Café.”
“We don’t want fast food anymore. Arch Café was the last student-run food service on campus [sic] and we really want it back, cause it was really good food and its really cheap,” said Cyril.
Cyril was among three Engineering students who said they would be willing to work at the Arch Café if it was brought under EUS management.
Midnight Kitchen was also a vocal presence at the rally. Members of the collective and volunteers unfurled a “Midnight Kitchen” banner from the roof of the Leacock extension, before being kicked off the roof by a security guard — one of several who circled the rally.
Dana Holtby, a volunteer with Midnight Kitchen who was on the roof, said that “we probably weren’t allowed up there anyway.”
Holtby emphasized, however, that she was not at the rally representing Midnight Kitchen.
“I’m here because I’m pissed off about what the McGill administration has done, in terms of backdoor deals over the summer…and taking away the only student space we have left, really. I’m really, really angry.”
Midnight Kitchen brought coffee and cake to the rally, and Alex Briggs, a member of the collective, expressed concern that the Midntight Kitchen could be next in line to be closed.
“We’re the only [student-run café] left,” said Briggs. “[But] we’re under SSMU, so we have some protection.”
According to Briggs, however, that doesn’t provide Midnight Kitchen any added security.
“I’m sure if the admin wanted to shut us down, they would,” said Briggs.
Midnight Kitchen also announced a “Corporate Food Boycott Strategy Session” slated for Monday at 7 p.m. in room 403 of the Shatner building.
“This is not just about one café — it’s about the continued corporatization of our campus,” said Holtby. “We don’t wanna eat corporatized shitty-ass food.”
Security guards followed the rally on its route around campus, blocking the entrance to the Macdonald-Harrington Building as protesters massed below them. The guards refused to comment on their specific duties, but they kicked Daily photographer Nate Mosseau out of Leacock at the beginning of the rally.
“I was on the second floor [of Leacock] taking pictures of the rally. A guard asked me if I was a tourist. I said I wasn’t a tourist, and he told me I couldn’t take pictures then. I told him that was silly…[and] that I was taking pictures for The Daily. He said I needed to show some ID to prove that,” said Mosseau.
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Provost Anthony Masi skirted the protest on their way to the Senate meeting.
“It’s just part of life in university,” said Munroe-Blum as protestors yelled and banged drums metres away.
Masi refused to comment.
Michael Lipsitz, a member of the Arch Café Mobilization Committee, said that it was in the administration’s interest to accommodate student desires.
“I think if they don’t listen, everyone’s going to realize that they don’t give a shit about us, and I don’t think they want that,” said Lipsitz.
Referring to the size of the rally, Lipsitz asked, “When is the last time this happened at McGill?”
—With files from Eric Andrew-Gee and Michael Lee-Murphy