SSMU’s Summit on Space in the Shatner Building began on February 1, following an announcement that Travel Cuts/Voyages Campus will leave its current location. This kicks off six weeks of consultation – a historically empty process – on what should be done with the newly open space. According to many on campus, the answer is simple: this is the perfect opportunity to bring a student-run cafe back to McGill.
The popular student-run Architecture Café was closed by the administration in 2010, inciting campus-wide anger. Though its management was originally told that the cafe could remain open for as long as it continued to break even, higher-ups eventually shut it down due to “financial instability.” But as Carly Roualt, the senior manager of the Arch Café, told The Daily at the time, no hard proof of this instability was ever cited. Closing the cafe was an unpopular move, as evidenced by the hundreds-strong protests that soon erupted outside Leacock.
Since the Arch Café’s closure, there have been several attempts to bring back a student-run cafe, but none as significant as Shyam Patel’s (SSMU VP Finance and Operations 2011-2012) two-year initiative. Yet the knowledge that SSMU will have to start paying for some of the Shatner building’s utilities next year, on top of an already outrageously expensive rent, has this year’s executive saying it can’t be done. Instead of using lease negotiations as an excuse for their inaction, SSMU should instead be advocating for students’ interests.
SSMU executives have suggested a room with couches and tables for studying, but we already have plenty of lounges on campus. A student-run café in the SSMU building – ostensibly student-run, yet filled with corporate spaces – would provide students with cheaper food and more opportunities for employment than the current corporate tenants do, but also something intangible and far more valuable. Student-run spaces are venues for everything from critical discussions to teach-ins. A vacancy this large in Shatner is a rare opportunity, and we can’t let it slip away.
— The McGill Daily Editorial Board