Take a look around: why are there so many brands on campus?
How is it that we’ve lost (or “not reopened”) so many small on-campus businesses — Pivik, Café Alt, Nostalgica, and 1848, to name a few — and yet have been joined by so many massive corporations on our campus? What happened to Rudy the hot dog guy, and what has happened to our place of higher education?
We can’t just blame COVID-19 anymore: the university has taken clear steps in support of large corporations on campus, and as stakeholders in the community, we should be concerned.
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has taken over what was, once upon a time, one of the U of O’s only 24/7 study spaces. (And the other 24/7 student lounge? Its desks have been removed due to COVID-19 restrictions, so where students are supposed to study on campus outside of their dorm rooms is beyond us.) With the construction of new buildings like Learning Crossroads (CRX) and SITE has come numerous new Tim Hortons (which are now always closed — the return of in-person classes has not been accompanied by the return of on-campus food services).
The Annex residence’s first floor is littered with fast food businesses, with few healthy options available to the student tenants upstairs — even if those businesses aren’t owned or leased by the university, the U of O still advertises them as advantages of living in Annex.
The fact that on its main campus or at other residences it has failed to supplement those businesses with healthy, local options for students is telling.
The University of Ottawa has become a graveyard of massive corporations.
We live in an age of atrophying small businesses — COVID-19 took a huge toll on local, beloved spots, and the decline of the SFUO brought down with it the few, beloved indie hangouts on the U of O campus. Why couldn’t the university have brought in an on-campus Happy Goat, for instance, or supported one of the numerous small businesses started by Telfer grads?
Why has the university extended a leasing agreement to only one local(-ish) business — Gabriel’s Pizza — which can be found on the first floor of the Rideau residence? And even if Gabriel’s is local (and honestly, it’s pushing it), the fact remains that pizza is not exactly a healthy choice for U of O students.
The University of Ottawa is, for better or worse, a place of learning — supposedly, a place of respite from the pervasive capitalism of our times. If we wanted to be surrounded by Fortune 500 brands, we’d go to university in the Rideau Centre. (We’ll ignore the fact that prior to COVID-19, we literally graduated there.)
The University of Ottawa has locked itself into multi-year leases with these corporations. The damage has ostensibly been done. The addition of a Copper Branch concept vegetarian restaurant in the FHS building at Lees avenue is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t nearly enough — most students will never make it to the Lees campus during their undergrad. There needs to be healthy and local options on the main campus.
Moving forward, with the inevitable construction of more buildings, there must come consideration for on-campus businesses that nourish (rather than prey upon) students. From the nutritionally greasy to the ethically slimy, the U of O has become a commercialized wasteland, and we fear how this will impact students on campus.
Editorials are written by the Fulcrum’s 16-person editorial board and express the shared views and opinions of the Fulcrum’s editorial staff. To share your own views, email firstname.lastname@example.org.