Students are banding together across faculty lines in an attempt to reverse Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson’s decision to close the Architecture Café.
On Monday, SSMU President Zach Newburgh and VP (University Affairs) Joshua Abaki met with Mendelson to present him with a memorandum showing that 80 per cent of undergraduate Architecture students are in favour of re-opening the Architecture Café.
“When I came out of the meeting, Josh and I had both left with the understanding that the deputy provost was going to reconsider his decision,” Newburgh said. “This was confirmed by his statements, which was ‘I will consider this advice and reconsider’. … He said that, point blank.”
Mendelson has publicly denied that he said in the meeting he would reconsider closing the Architecture Café.
Asked if this meant Mendelson was lying, Newburgh said, “Yes, that would be correct.”
Since the administration decided to close the Architecture Café this fall, student outrage has centred as much on the handling of the closure as the closing itself. Students have repeatedly cited a lack of consultation as one of the most contentious issues in the café’s closure.
“In the original memo that we got from the dean of engineering, which heralded the official communication of the decision to students, the strongest argument made for closing the café was that the architecture students wanted a study space. However, as the decision was made in the summer, architecture students were actually not consulted,” said Abaki.
According to the 2006 Principal’s Task Force on Student Life and Learning: “The Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) and the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) should engage in broad-based consultations, through a round table or other appropriate mechanism, to streamline procedures and decision processes for the reservation of university space by student organizations wherever possible.”
Mendelson said that “there is no link between the Task Force recommendations and the administrative decision to close a money-losing food operation, especially where the space is required for other student activities. While I am certainly open to listening to arguments and suggestions regarding the positions taken by the University, nothing has persuaded me that I made the wrong decision.”
Despite Mendelson’s position, students remain hopeful about the possibility of the café reopening. A protest, called “Rally for Saving the Architecture Cafe!” on Facebook, is scheduled to be staged outside Leacock on September 22 at 2:30 p.m. The Facebook event for the protest had over 1,000 confirmed attendees when the Daily went to print.
On September 7, the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) and Architecture Students Association (ASA) sent a joint memorandum to Mendelson proposing that the café be put under the supervision of the EUS, which has a strong history of running successful business operations.
“The ASA is relatively small, given other departments, but on principle it’s really important. It’s the last student-run café and people identify with that. People see the corporatization of the school, the closing down of student-run services in the name of financial efficiency or whatever buzz words that Voldemort [Mendelson] is using these days,” said Arts Senator Tyler Lawson.
“What kind of administration is going to operate in stark ignorance of the students’ desires?” asked Lawson. “It’s important that this rally sets the tone for the rest of the year. We intend to mobilize students…[and] effectively take back this institution, what’s ours.”