Commentary  It’s not just about brownies

Why the student movement opposes more than simply administration policies

With the Arch Café closure, we lost our food and shelter, and were shown that we have no say. Worse, it’s another example of corporate rights overruling human rights – a sadly common theme in today’s world.

Corporations express our society’s movement toward less democratic control, further dissociation from one another, and less accountability. A CEO’s conscience (if they have one) is protected, by their stakeholders’ wallets, against the stings of guilt. Meanwhile, the shareholders are safe from the nasty details of their livelihood. From their perspective, the executives must make as much money as humanly (or inhumanely) possible, or else sabotage the lives of their dependents. This plays directly into the arms of the innate tendency to separate into “us” and “them:” a phenomenon seen from middle school cafeterias up through racism and genocide. And that is exactly what it accomplishes: the slow murder of billions of people around our planet, along with all other life and the health of the earth itself.

I am writing to break from this tradition and invite you to do the same. We live within a system of incredible waste, and still we are told there is not enough to go around! Luckily this waste gives us the space we need to grow into engaged citizens on a new earth – if we can only find the will.

I hope these words ring with some truth – but I am afraid that this task sounds trying. As an engineering student activist, I know that the load can be heavy, but I want you to realize that this is the reality of our lives. We have come to the end of the golden era; easy oil has run out: the Gulf oil spill, the tar sands, and shale gas exploration should be all the proof we need. Now we need to build a life that can weather the storms to come.

The first step is to learn to think for ourselves. We have been taught to solve problems; now we must learn to find them. Far from being given, they are usually hidden from the public eye. The second step is to shed all the dead weight.

Unaccountable corporations must be the first to go. Capitalism could be the best way to encourage innovation – but there is no argument for the progress of monopoly and exploitation.

We have to eat; this need is the definition of inelastic. If Aramark is left as the sole provider of this service, do you expect them to bother making our food enjoyable, nutritious, or equitable? Make no mistake, they are driven by the bottom line – and it is not quality.

At every turn, students’ rights and interests are under attack as McGill sells its educational quality to become a moneymaking patent factory. It is time to stand up for those rights if we care to keep them, or resign ourselves to a corporate-controlled world where our freedoms are eroded under every step. The choice is ours – but the time is now. By tomorrow, we will have even further to climb.

Alex Briggs is a U2 Mechanical Engineering student and a member of Mobilization McGill. Write him at