Commentary | Should we eat cake?

Arch Café protests miss the mark

Though I support the reopening of the Architecture Café, I cannot help but take issue with the activism that arose from its closure. My issue is not with the act of protesting itself – I have signed the petition; if I had Facebook, I’d have joined the group which I assume exists; I was present at the protest on September 22. My plight, however, arises when I stop to consider just why exactly students, myself included, care so much for the Arch Café, and what the reasons are for our sudden burst of rebellion against an administra-tion whose mistreatment we’ve become accustomed to.

During the rally, one of the “leaders” announced through a megaphone that we were demonstrat-ing to let the administration know that they can no longer disregard students’ needs, as they have been doing for some time now. If this were really true, wouldn’t we have held protests much earlier? I don’t know of a single McGill student who has never at some point been disgruntled by the administration’s actions, nor one who felt so strongly as to hold a protest over it. One of the other megaphonists finished his speech with a slogan we are all acquainted with and which, I believe, speaks truer to the individual student’s reason for wanting to save the Arch Café: “Let them eat cake!”

Using that saying, falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette, leads us to understand that it is not the students’ needs, but rather their wants, that act as the driving factor behind this example of student activism. In The Daily’s article “Hundreds rally to save Arch Café” (News, September 23), EUS VP Internal Allan Cyril was reported to have said, “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 it’s really cheap.” The protesters are no longer revolutionaries who have nothing, fighting to get what they can from the aristocratic elites. They are the elite! And they’re being led by their stomachs and their wallets.

In truth, economic and gastronomical reasons do tend to motivate many protests, but they’re often the fore-runners to the ideals. One does not protest for cake or cheap food, but for bread and the money to buy it with. That brings about real civil disobedience. Our options are limitless: a world of taste for under ten dollars is within walking distance of any class. While the cause tries to be noble, it is ultimately selfish. This is not to say that it can’t still be a worthy cause, if the approach were changed.

As stated in Nicholas Dillon’s open letter to Morton Mendelson (“Do your job, Deputy Provost,” Com-mentary, September 20), the Deputy Provost’s plan to take the Arch Café and turn it into a study space is unintelligible, yet it’s in McGill’s budget. Students, if you were to hold a protest, then why not take issue with the budget and the rising tuition fees as so many other university students throughout Montreal already have? Look at the larger issues at hand – fight back without using Zach Newburgh’s empty catchphrases – and maybe then Heather Munroe-Blum won’t be so quick to brush us off.

The reopening of the Arch Café is definitely a cause worth fighting for, but not on the basis of the current claims. The root budgetary problem should be of much greater concern. The students need to be made aware of the real issues, and maybe then more than half of Leacock 132’s capacity will show up. Together we can change McGill life as we know it, but only if we all understand what we should really be fighting against.

Daniel Meltzer is a U2 English Literature and Philosophy student. Write him at daniel.meltzer@mail.mcgill.ca.


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