Last Wednesday, members of the McGill community participated in a sit-in organized by SNAX, a food-retail outlet managed under the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS). The sit-in aimed to raise awareness and support for SNAX in light of McGill’s recent stipulation that SNAX would not be able to sell sandwiches. This stipulation was mandated in AUS’s memorandum of agreement (MoA) with McGill, but has only recently been enforced.
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Engagement) Ollivier Dyens previously addressed AUS Council in January, stating that McGill chose to enforce its MoA clause with SNAX due to liability issues.
“As you know, we’re very, very conscious about food safety,” Dyens said at the time. “If somebody gets sick while going to SNAX, people aren’t going to go after SNAX or AUS, they’re going to go after McGill […] and it’s going to have ramifications for the university.”
SNAX Manager Hasan Nizami explained that SNAX had responded to McGill’s concerns regarding food handling and safety protocols at SNAX.
“[McGill] raised a concern about liability issues […] and as a response to that, we got all employees certified and trained in food handling and safety by [the Quebec ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation],” he said. “The admin appreciated that stance of ours, but [there was] still nothing from [the administration’s] side.”
The current MoA is for 2010 to 2015, and negotiations for a new MoA started in December 2014. Nizami expressed his frustrations with the current state of MoA negotiations, highlighting the current proposed MoA draft sent by McGill to AUS in December 2014.
“What I see in that draft is that whatever we proposed for in the negotiations is just not there,” he said. “It seems like we are missing from the picture.”
Ali Taghva, U1 Arts, stated that he attended the sit-in so he could express his stance against the administration’s decision.
“Right now, we have a situation where students are taking up an initiative to provide an option to the student body,” Taghva said. “Seeing so many people from different sides come in and help is a great thing [….] The best thing it’s doing […] is connecting people. Even if this doesn’t work today, you have a larger network of people who tomorrow are [going to] sit down, talk, and make sure it happens.”
Taghva also explained that he enjoyed how accessible SNAX is.
“Yes, we have a billion businesses on campus providing food, [and]snacks,” he said. “[But] not all of them are affordable, not all of them provide for vegans or vegetarians.”
Nizami echoed Taghva’s opinion, stating that he was happy with student turnout at the sit-in.
“Once we made the Facebook event, people just came out themselves. We didn’t really have to approach anyone,” he said. “This shows that people are frustrated.”
Nizami also explained that SNAX is not seeking to expand its retail presence on campus and underscored that AUS’ negotiations with McGill served to represent student issues on campus.
“All we want is what we had before [….] Let us try to provide the service we have been providing to students at a cheap rate,” he said. “This sit-in is […] not to have an aggressive stance against the administration [….] I believe that this issue is not just about sandwiches—it’s about the general representation of students in policy making.”