SSMU has joined AUS and Midnight Kitchen in officially endorsing a boycott of McGill Food and Dining Service (MFDS), in the latest development in the ongoing dispute over who serves food at McGill. The boycott comes in response to the administration’s closure of the student-run Architecture Café.
Boycott of McGill Food and Dining Services
The motion, presented at last Thursday’s Legislative Council, passed with just over 50 per cent of council members in favor. The motion calls for an official boycott of all MFDS establishments on campus until the administration begins consultation with students on the matter of the Architecture Café’s closure, and financial transparency with regards to the Café’s books becomes publicly available to students.
The resolution also mandates SSMU to make clear which dining establishments are and are not associated with MFDS, which operates the Redpath Oasis, the Subway in the Arts building and Sinfully Asian, among others. The resolution does not pertain to those students – mostly first-years – who have already purchased and rely on meal plans. Councillor Kallee Lins and Arts Senator Tyler Lawson, co-authors of the resolution, presented it to council.
Erin Hale, a U3 student and former Daily editor, spoke before the motion was presented, as a guest speaker from Mobilization McGill, a group facilitated by Midnight Kitchen that was instrumental in organizing the September 22 rally to save the café.
Hale described to council what she hoped the boycott will achieve: “I am fairly confident that the boycott could cause some financial loss,” she said.
“It might not mean much to McGill, since they have outsourced food services to a multi-million dollar corporation,” she continued, referring to Aramark, a U.S.-based company that runs most of MFDS’s outlets. “At the very least, though, it would be great if this embarrassed [McGill].”
While no SSMU council members openly opposed the sentiment behind the motion, there was a substantial amount of debate about the efficacy of an official boycott in re-opening the Architecture Café, and on whether or not the gesture would actually impact the McGill administration.
Councillor Lauren Hudak said that despite supporting the Café’s reopening, she did not support the motion to boycott. “The resolution directly links the events surrounding the Architecture Café to McGill Food and Dining Services. Is that ultimately who students are fighting against?” She went on to state that a general boycott had the potential to detract attention from the Architecture Café itself.
“The target of student frustrations has been and should continue to be on certain departments of the McGill administration for a complete lack of transparency surrounding the financial stability of the Arch Café and for a complete lack of student consultation, especially with the senior managers of the Arch Café,” Hudak continued. “By supporting this boycott, this diverts the attention from the above problems and places it on another group, which is not necessarily the source of the problem for the Arch Café’s closure.”
Kirk Emery, the Law Faculty Student Representative, emphasized that the gesture’s symbolic importance would be reason enough to pass the motion solidifying the boycott. He argued that the financial impact the boycott would have on the administration does not need to be quantifiable, and that a statement clarifying the students’ general dissatisfaction with the administration would provide a clear message to the University. He went on to stress that the motion would take a stance on a larger issue: the administration’s continuing disregard for students’ desires and the lack of student consultation in the administration.
“The administration just gave you [the undergraduate student body] a big ‘F you’ by completely ignoring what you want,” Emery said. “Don’t cooperate with them. They’re motivated by purely financial reasons. It’s important to make a statement back to them.”
Lawson emphasized the motion’s origins as a grassroots movement with palpable student support.
“This is an act of solidarity with sentiments on campus, and can further the agenda of student centrality,” he told council. “It pertains to a much larger issue with the administration, so it’s really important that we follow through with the boycott.”
Lins said the passage of the motion was a victory for students. “I’m really happy the motion passed, because it shows our commitment to showing solidarity with students on campus who have already taken up this issue,” she said after council. “The debate tonight really focused on linking the Architecture Café to the larger issue of students’ ability to run student-run food services on campus, so I think we did a really good job of amending the motion to reflect that.”
In his executive report, SSMU VP University Affairs Joshua Abaki referred to the last Senate meeting, in which SSMU President Zach Newburgh attempted to present a motion for reconsideration of the Architecture Café’s closing. “The Principal considered the motion out of order, which really was out of order because the motion was in order,” Abaki told Council. The motion is scheduled to appear before the Steering Committee of Senate, which will decide whether it can be presented at the next Senate meeting.
In the wake of issues surrounding SSMU councillors involved in the QPIRG Opt-Out Campaign, VP Clubs & Services Anushay Khan explained that she is looking to clarify the role of councillors. “If they are considered administrators [of SSMU], then they are bound legally [to disclose student group affiliation]. In the case that they are not considered administrators, then they are not bound because they are considered representatives. It is a grey area right now, but definitely something that I’m looking into.”
Spencer Burger, an Arts representative and member of the Opt-Out campaign, lost an election for the External Affairs committee, and dropped out of the running for the Funding committee, anouncing that he nevertheless thought he would have done a good job.
Maggie Knight and Max Zidel were elected to the Funding committee, while Lawson, Amara Possian and Zach Margolis won the External committee election. Zidel, Knight and Katie Larson will sit on the Interest Groups committee.