Kwantlen cafeteria food is the product of $7.7-billion food company Sodexo, Coca-Cola earned the rights to be “the sole provider of beverages” on campus and if students want to check out books, they can do so from one of four Coast Capital libraries.
Corporate entities are visible all throughout Kwantlen, but it may not be a bad thing.
For example, when “Ahh Giver” Coca-Cola entered into a multi-year agreement with the school, one condition of the contract was that the company would be required to provide annual funding for student and faculty projects and events.
Kwantlen also received $1 million from Coast Capital Savings credit union, the largest single donation ever received, according to the school.
Last semester, Eva Botten, co-founder of the former Kwantlen club Friends 4 Food, led a campus action day against corporate involvement before the group folded. The club provided healthy meal options for students in an effort to boycott the school’s food and drink corporatization.
Despite being against the idea behind privatization, Botten could still see the positive aspects.
“Ultimately it is our campus, and if students decide that we want a better library, better this, better that and we can’t raise funds to do it on our own, then sure, bring somebody in,” she said.
“But I think there should be a somewhat equal balance between student-led organizations and [company involvement].”
The fourth-year criminology student claimed the ends don’t always justify the means, and the concept of privatizing aspects of the university can, in the long run, be detrimental to student life.
“Almost every single building has its corporate entity to it, and I don’t know when it’s going to stop,” said the club’s former advocate and cook. “I think it means the total enclosure of student grounds.
“If we want to become more of a university, I think that [university] space should at least be available for students,” she said, adding that the paperwork process involved in setting up fundraisers or display tables on campus is a major deterrent for clubs such as Friends 4 Food.
“It’s completely going to crap,” she joked, adding, more seriously, that she believes no matter what, decisions “should always be in favour of the students”.
Friends 4 Food is not friends with Sodexo.
The reactive Friends 4 Food was formed in opposition to what they see as “a corporate bully”, Sodexo, moving in as operators of Kwantlen’s cafeterias through what they say is an all-too-murky process.
Friends 4 Food is run by a small group of criminology students and serves vegan food to students in the Surrey campus courtyard four days a week, offering an alternative to what F4F sees as overly expensive and unhealthy food, provided by Sodexo at Kwantlen’s cafeterias.
In the first week of operations, F4F was shutdown by Fraser Health Authority and slapped with $615 in fines for various health code violations, but not before being warned by Kwantlen administration of the potential health violations and of not properly booking space in the courtyard at Surrey Campus.
The idea was to serve vegan food by donation to students who don’t wish to spend their money at Sodexo.
“We thought we’d call for a boycott, but we can’t really call for a boycott if we have no means for students to boycott it,” said Eva Botten, who is a lead organizer of F4F.
Started as a research project for a criminology class, F4F organizers looked into the history of the company now running the cafeteria at the school.
“So we’re trying to get [Sodexo] out,” Botten said.
On the Surrey campus, there are other food options, such as the student-run Grassroots Café, but campuses in Richmond, Langley and Cloverdale only have Sodexo-run cafeterias.
F4F has gained wide support from Kwantlen’s criminology faculty in its vocal protests against Sodexo on one side, but has been dealing with Kwantlen aministration and policy on the other.
“In an era where there is so much student indifference or apathy, to have a student who is smart and politically engaged and have some political moxie, is a student to be celebrated,” said Hollis Johnson, the criminology professor who assigned the project.
Johnson also harkened back to an incident over the summer when Emery Warner, another Kwantlen criminology student, was booted off campus for refusing to show identification while handing out leaflets protesting Sodexo’s (at the time) new place on campus.
“Why would anybody get in trouble with the university and members of Sodexo for leafleting, handing out pieces of paper on a university, which to my mind is an open, public institution?” Johnson asked.
“Does that mean that anybody who walks on campus who we don’t like what they look like, or have to say, have to identify themselves?”
Joanne Saunders, Kwantlen’s Director of Marketing and Communications, said,”everyone is allowed to voice their opinion, I don’t have any concerns about that at all.”
“We’re just a university. The only reason we’re really involved, is we need to make sure that everything that the students are involved in, they’re in a safe environment… the proper space has been booked if they’re planning an event,” Saunders said.
Saunders said Kwantlen’s concerns were solely to do with the booking the required space and making sure the group meets the required Fraser Health regulations.
“We’re not there to hound the students to take up their time and ask them to do unreasonable things, but that is the procedure here at the university,” she said.
Jody Gordon, associate vice-president, students, wouldn’t comment on F4F, even though Friends 4 Food has singled out her office as the source of its troubles.
They believe that someone in Gordon’s office is responsible for tipping Fraser Health off, meaning that F4F was inspected even before the newly-opened Tim Horton’s on Surrey campus.
But according to Gordon, during the first week that F4F was set up serving food, Fraser Health Authority was alerted by an article that appeared on The Province’s website, prompting the health to shut F4F down amid concerns over food safety.
“Fraser Health [Authority] was involved… because of the much stricter regulations that Fraser Health has now on serving food. There’s other things that get involved with more than just occupying a small corner of a very large area,” Gordon said.
“What about free speech? What about freedom of academic inquiry, just to name a few,” he asked.
And for Friends 4 Food, it’s a simple choice — a choice between student-made, vegan food — or not. “We’re only serving vegan food, and they do not offer vegan food,” Botten said.
“They offer carrot sticks, celery and French fries for vegan options.”