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Arch Café: more than a café, more than McGill

Food companies and capital deforming our campus

On September 22, Samuel Jutzi, director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, warned that “lobbying by ‘powerful’ big food companies is blocking reforms which would improve human health and the environment.”

Basically, big food companies are acting for profit and without the majority’s best interest in mind. It surprises me sometimes that food, a basic human need, has become a commodity. Why would we ever let other people determine where our sustenance, our lifeblood, comes from, without question? Why, when we see the earth crumbling beneath our feet, would we allow wasteful, unsustainable practices without noticing that there are other ways? Why (and I say this with some reserve), as students at one of the best universities in the country, do we not question the greenwashing that our university currently practices?
As everybody mentions, this isn’t about the Architecture Café. This is about something bigger.

I haven’t quite figured this place out, and I’ve been here for five years. I understand that the administration wants this to be a highly-ranked university. I understand that with high rankings come prestige, wonderful high-performing students, and corporate dollars. I understand all of this. But what is enough? If you get to number one, you’ll spend all your time defending your position. If you’re at number two, you’ll spend all your time trying to outperform number one. Instead of focusing on rankings, how about you focus on your students – the people who become your next researchers, who attract those corporate dollars, and who ultimately determine your prestige.

I see the closing down of the Architecture Café, the removal of the “McGill” name from student groups, the “bike ban,” larger class sizes, et cetera, somehow fitting together in all of this. (Okay, conspiracy theory time!) I consider this quelling of student initiative as the administration’s way of creating the “breed” of students that they want: the students who will follow instructions and do the research that they want them to do – research that brings in the dollars. Is this why we came to university in the first place? I came here to be inspired by my peers and my professors. However, with class sizes of about 100 people (yes, even in my fifth year), professors who are too busy with grant proposals and corporate contracts, and no place to go to meet and converse with students studying other things, this place seems a far cry from what I was hoping for.

And back to food. In my view, it is our capitalist society – so set on metrics, statistics, and rankings – that creates all of this. I find respite where people are genuinely doing things because they want to, not because it will look good on their CV, not because it will give them a leg up on the corporate ladder. These are the people who are creating the world I want to live in. The folks who ran Architecture Café, who provided us a place to be without feeling like we had to buy, buy, buy; the volunteers at Midnight Kitchen who work tirelessly to bring us nutritious food, while fighting our messed-up food systems head on. There is no denying that food creates community; just look at the number of people who came out at the rally a few weeks ago for proof. Sharing food is equivalent to sharing life. For me, love is an essential ingredient in any recipe. But love has no monetary value, so how can we expect Aramark to add it to our food?
Think about it. Think about what structures you are supporting, and if this is really what you want out of life, from society, from your university. The driving force behind all of these systems is money, not love, and not your well-being. Don’t spend your dollars or your parents’ helping to perpetuate this system which is so good at putting you in a box. The boycott next week is the start of something bigger. Together, we can create something wonderful. See you at the rally.

Farid Rener is a U3 Honours Electrical Engineering student, and a member of Mobilization McGill. You can email him at