Carol Fraser, I’m afraid you missed my point in your article (“Let us eat cake!” Commentary, October 14), and maybe it’s my fault for not being clear enough. You take me to be on the side of the administration, but I most certainly am not. What’s happening is a great starting point for rekindling student activism, yes. Now what we have to do is get to students to see the real issues, to not perceive this as some kids banging pots and pans because they want their food back.
Look at how it’s been portrayed: people outside the University, when asked about what they thought of it all, said it was just about some cafe. Even a Globe and Mail writer I encountered had caught word of it and reacted in a way similar to Heather Munroe-Blum’s statement the day of the rally: “It’s just university life.”
You said it yourself: students are apathetic. Business doesn’t dictate when someone is apathetic towards something. They just don’t care! Why? Because for most people it is just another cafe.
Food is necessary for human survival, and most students don’t think of the Arch Café as its only source. Step outside the boundaries of McGill campus, and walk a ten-minute radius around campus. Now try to list how many places a student can get food. It will take quite a while to make a comprehensive list – Google definitely won’t be able to do it. Students can go to any of these places. I never said students should do this between classes – that would be preposterous. I would much rather have somewhere closer by, a place that better represents students. That’s why I started my last commentary insisting that I support the reopening of the Arch Café.
By the way, the administration never said “Let them eat cake!” in a Marie Antoinette fa-shion, but a rally leader did. Everything you say that follows is not to the point. The way the students intended it the day of the rally – as cake was being handed out to them, might I add – is no different than when a child cries for candy in a store. Look at what everyone said that day and at what everyone else is saying now. People aren’t fighting for the right reasons. They want the Café back because they like the Café. Their rea-sons are not as noble as your own and the few other people who understand the real issue at hand.
In my eyes, the root problem is McGill’s budget. Before I saw your article, I had intended to write a response to the email sent out by Munroe-Blum last Tuesday concerning Bill 100. Her letter describes the clear failure of the budget. She is con-cerned solely with McGill’s reputation, not with campus life. If it looks good, maybe we can get more international students. In the mean time, our level of academics is de-creasing. Though we were said to gain more professors (how many aren’t actual professors, but grad students or PhD fellows?), they also announced that for every two leaving staff members, one will be hired. Take a moment to consider all that this entails. Take into consideration who will replace these professors considering the administration would rather have part-time staff members.
Boycott, yes! By why just those three days? Why not every day since the close? Why not boycott every way in which the administration gets a penny out of you beyond your tuition fees. The Arch Café may be symbolic in this battle with the administration, but it is not the main concern. Stop talking about it and start talking about the real issues. One of Zach Newburgh’s empty catch-phrases at the rally was “Students united can never be defeated!” 200 to 300 people is a small percentage of the student population. I don’t care how many people signed a petition or joined a Facebook group, because a signature is empty if the individual doesn’t appear behind it. Are we united? No. You and I agree on the cause, yet we disagree on the issues. What about everyone else who signed the petition or showed up at the rally? Who knows what they think?
If you want to make this an issue, then don’t act like apathetic students. It’s an ongoing fight, so don’t stop fighting because you’re busy with exams or papers. Don’t plan ahead when you’re going to boycott Aramark food providers – just do it! What happened to good ol’ fashion picket lines that deny access to everyone else?
Personally, I care, but not enough. I hate seeing injustices occur, really, I do. But stu-dent life at McGill is a short one, and soon it will be somebody else’s problem. Prove me wrong. Do you still fight battles against your high school’s corrupt administration? Prospective students won’t care about this – they will only know McGill for what it is when they first step onto campus.
Daniel Meltzer is a U2 English Literature and Philosophy student. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.