Student Kitchens: What’s Cooking in the Depths of Flavelle?

Shari Nathan (2L)

In the past week, it’s possible that you skipped a breakfast. Maybe you couldn’t find an event to sneak into at lunchtime to steal a slice of pizza. You might’ve been cramming readings for an early morning class the next day, and not wanted to leave the building for dinner. Or maybe you just took a glance at your Scotiabank line of credit and realised you can’t go out to eat every day. Would it have helped you if you had a student kitchen in the new building that was accessible and didn’t smell like asbestos, cat litter, or that certain je ne sais quoi?

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Student kitchen

The new building has nine kitchens. One is under construction, one is for caretaking personnel, one is permanently locked, and one is for students.  The remaining five are for faculty and staff. The features of the faculty, staff, and student kitchens are shown below (blank spaces indicate unknown):

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Notably, at least two of the kitchens have toasters which, according to an email sent out to the students earlier this month, is not allowed “due to fire regulations.”  In addition, faculty and staff have access to free coffee and tea supplies, while the students are still without an on-site café at which they could buy coffee.

Beyond the clear deficiencies of the student kitchen in comparison to its faculty and staff counterparts, the student kitchen is the only one which is inaccessible. The Flavelle fourth floor kitchen’s fridge and freezer are up a small set of steps, but all of the other elements are accessible. The other three kitchens are all accessible.

There are currently 33 faculty offices on the third floor, and 31 on the fourth floor. However, faculty members’ physical presence in their offices is widely variable. In addition, the Dean’s suite and Faculty Secretary Office have a few staff each who may be using the faculty kitchens on the fourth and third  floors, respectively. There are less than a hundred staff listed in the Faculty of Law’s staff directory, many of whom do not have offices in the building. With a generous estimate of about 150 staff and faculty in the building on any given day, that’s a kitchen to staff and faculty ratio of 1:30.

I estimate that there are about 600 students, based on the fact that we have about 200 students per year for three years. Let’s say there are 500 students, to compensate for those on exchange, deferral, joint programs, etc. That still gives us a 1:500 ratio for our kitchen, over fifteen times that of the faculty and staff kitchens.
The larger problem that this absurd ratio and inaccessibility illustrates is a general lack of care for students. Sequestering all of the students to one room in the basement of the old building, while giving faculty and staff sole access to four newer kitchens, demonstrates the amount of concern that the administration had for student life and space while they were divvying up the building.

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Staff kitchen P320 located in the Student Commons

One proposed explanation from Assistant Dean Alexis Archbold is that the student kitchen should be close to the student lounge, and located in a student space. This is odd considering that P320 is in an area specifically designated Student Commons by a large sign on the wall and on all of the building maps.

When asked why students couldn’t be given access to P320, she responded that a shared student and staff kitchen has been tried in the past and put a strain on staff-student relations. The obvious follow up question: Why not just make P320 a student kitchen and allow the staff to use J317, which is about thirty  steps away?  Evidently, the faculty kitchens are “small” and only built for occupancy of the faculty whose offices are in the faculty office hallways, and not for the additional staff on the third floor. That claim is tough to make when hundreds of students are meant to be using one kitchen.

When this disparity was pointed out to Alexis Archbold, her response was that faculty and staff work full-time in the building.  The implication that students are not here full-time because we only have certain numbers of class hours is tenuous, especially considering the fact that the Faculty strongly discourages students from studying part-time.  Many of us are here just as long as faculty and staff, if not longer. Who among us has stayed at the Faculty until 7 pm? 11 pm? 3 am?

Something has gone awry in the allocation of student spaces in the new building, and nowhere is it more obvious and disdainful than in the allocation of kitchen space.
Hungry? We’d better go out.