There are a lot of ongoing complaints at McGill: Construction, winter, nights at McLennan, and the SNAX sandwich saga. McGill students might remember November 2014, when the administration prohibited SNAX from selling sandwiches because the service was not technically included in the Memorandum of Agreement SNAX was operating under. At last, the great battle of our times is over. As of Jan. 27, a temporary agreement was reached between McGill and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) for the return of the sandwiches until December 2016, at which point the situation will be re-evaluated.
In March 2015, continued delays to the return of the sandwiches prompted a sit-in from aggrieved McGill students. Tens of students protested the administration’s tyranny against SNAX. Sit-ins and protests—though usually associated with activist groups on campus, such as Divest or Demilitarize McGill—were here used to great effect. The loss of a few sandwiches shouldn’t normally elicit such a strong reaction, but in the face of previous disappointment, it brings hungry students one straw closer to the breaking point. It took approximately one year for order to be restored. The sandwiches will soon return.
The prolonged situation undoubtedly seems ridiculous to an outsider. Said outsider would, however, overlook two fundamental aspects of the McGill experience: Shared resentment towards the price of food on campus, and consequent passion for our beloved, if idiosyncratic, eating habits. The struggle for sandwiches has been one part in a larger war against McGill’s failure to ensure the availability of affordable, sustainable food operations on campus. That negotiations have taken so long and remain only tentatively resolved demonstrates the difficulties student-run operations face. While the Great Battle of SNAX has been won (at least for now), students must continue their struggle to provide their own affordable food on campus.
Resentment first sparked following the replacement of the Tim Hortons in the McLennan-Redpath basement with Première Moisson. Student-run food stands—which represent the many fronts of this war—have since become fundamental to the daily routines of McGill students. The samosa culture has exploded such that we now have not one, but two Facebook pages, created solely to help one another locate the nearest samosa sale. Midnight Kitchen, a free vegan lunch operation in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Building was founded as a reaction against the corporatization and prices of McGill’s on-campus food services. The popularity of Midnight Kitchen, SNAX, and samosa sales demonstrate students’ commitment to providing that which McGill Food & Dining Services will not.
Prohibiting SNAX from selling sandwiches had wider implications than McGill might have initially realized—interference led to absolute outrage. While SSMU has explored ways to make its building a hub for diet-sensitive, student-run initiatives, starting with Organic Campus and the Student-Run Café, the administration has failed to match such initiatives.
Over a year later, the sandwich situation remains subject to speculation. Indeed, the struggle has not simply been to restore sandwiches to their rightful place. It has been against the drawn-out, convoluted, bureaucratic decision-making processes inherent to dealings with McGill. Often, the administration’s rationale is utterly opaque: The latest agreement includes the additional requirement that SNAX is under no circumstances allowed to display a banner—no doubt the sight of such an atrocity would be displeasing to sandwich-deprived, stressed out McGill students navigating their way through Leacock rush hour. But given the seemingly endless negotiations between McGill and the AUS, the plethora of articles from campus newspapers, and even a segment on CBC about the sit-in last March, there is more at stake than just the fate of a few sandwiches. The war is for the return of food and dining services to the students.
Student representation in administrative decisions is the root of this frustration. The culmination of the removal of SNAX’s sandwiches in a sit-in demonstrates the common bond among McGill students over food: We appreciate the smaller things in life. We will trek to McIntyre Medical in the dead of winter for our samosas; we will endure small talk at SNAX for a one-dollar coffee; and we once upon a time waited in a 15-minute line at Tim Hortons for a double-double and cream cheese bagel. These bare necessities are no less important today. The fight for cost-effective, sustainable, diet-sensitive food options on campus continues.