The rumblings of construction equipment and drilling on St. George Street have finally ceased, as the campus welcomed the completion of the new Rotman building. In the next few years, U of T will see rapid growth on the downtown, Scarborough, and Mississauga campuses — growth that will inevitably lead to the construction of more buildings and student spaces. With new buildings going up, the question of establishing new food spaces will naturally follow. It is crucial that we as students act to ensure that some of these new food outlets will be student-run establishments.

Currently, three food establishments on the St. George campus are wholly student -run: Diabolos at University College, Harvest Noon in the GSU building, and Hardhat Café in the Sandford Fleming Building. The success of these three establishments provides good reason for adding more like them to the list. First, student establishments keep money within the university community: any profits that are made go straight back into the college council or union that operates the establishment, and employment opportunities are made available to students. These outlets also help to build a sense of community; students can gather, and eat in a place of their own.

Furthermore, the business is rwesponsible to students, not shareholders. As a result, these establishments can provide food for students at costs lower or on par with other food outlets, while maintaining just enough profit to keep the business afloat. Diabolos, for example, offers coffee for a dollar if students bring their own mugs. Students can also keep track of the money that goes into the business, because the outlets are required to report their budgets and expenditures to a governing body like a student board of directors or a college council.

Finally, because they are responsible to students, these businesses have to operate on an ethical basis. This means sticking to a mandate of equity and social justice, while trying to make a reasonable profit: offering vegan, vegetarian, Halal and Kosher options, making sure your coffee is ethically sourced, your food is organic and locally grown as much as possible, and that your business is environmentally friendly and sustainable. In today’s world, it is almost impossible to avoid giving money to a business that engages in morally questionable practices. But universities are supposed to be examples of a just, moral society, an example that can be held up for the rest of society. Therefore, students have an obligation to make our businesses’ as morally responsible as possible.

This is not to say that Aramark and other contracting companies should be entirely pushed off campus. Students cannot possibly feed the entire student population. But the option of student-run establishments needs to be considered when students and administration look for possible food options for new buildings.

Abdullah Shihipar is an executive of the Arts and Science Students’ Union. The opinions he expresses are entirely his own. 

See also: Comment – Eating healthy is a personal choice