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18th November 2013

Student Assembly endorses ‘Save Our Veggie Café’ campaign

Supporting the Veggie Cafe becomes official Students’ Union policy

Students voted in favour of keeping the Veggie Cafe on campus by an almost unanimous decision at a Students’ Union assembly this month.

The motion was put forward to student Assembly and passed into policy on November 7th.

In response to the news, the ‘Save Our Veggie Café’ campaign said, “Well done to everyone who has supported us, and those who attended the assembly tonight. We’re super chuffed and cannot wait to work with our [Students’ Union sabbatical officers] on an even bigger and better campaign.”

Students got behind the Vegetarian Cafe at the beginning of this academic year after the University announced plans to evict the cafe from its current library-adjacent premises as part of renovations to the Schunck Building.

Speaking to The Mancunion, Grace Skelton, General Secretary of the Students’ Union, was keen to stress that the verdict of the vote does not represent any radical change in Students Union policy. What is does constitute is a “proper mandate”, which “I can now use to further lobby the University on the issue”.

In an email, she added further that “Judging by the popularity of the campaign, keeping the Veggie cafe on campus is something that is important to both students and academics, and I am pleased with the outcome from Assemblies. Both the Students’ Union and the University have already offered several alternative locations to the cafe owner.  We are hoping that this matter will be resolved quickly, amicably and in a mutually beneficial fashion.”

The ongoing dispute appears to be over where the Veggie Café is going to go, and whether or not such a move would be permanent.

In an earlier email to the campaign committee, Skelton explained that “Regrettably, as far as a campaign is concerned I see no way that the University is going to allow the Veggie Café to stay where it is… Even if the University did make space for the Veggie Café in the new building, due to the extent of the building works, she (the owner) would have to move out for at least a year. They’re not completely opposed to an alternative premise being found however, and as a campaign tactic I would focus on this”.

The Mancunion asked Charlotte Smith, a member of the campaign committee, whether she and her colleagues will endorse the offer of ‘alternative premise’.

To which she responded “management have yet to explain to us why the café has to move out of its current venue permanently. Obviously we recognise that the café needs to move for the duration of the refurbishment but our question is why is the café not an integral part of the refurbishment? Why can it not return and form part of the planned PG hub? Most PG students we have spoken to want the café to remain as part of the new hub. This seems an obvious solution and there has been no explanation about why this cannot happen”.

Meanwhile, the committee of the campaign have been busy with their agenda. The last month has seen several public meetings, one of which was covered by Fuse FM, and leafleting by volunteers outside the library.

Early last week they sent an open letter to University President Nancy Rothwell and Estates Manager Diana Hampson, which outlined the demands of the campaign and asks for them to “meet with a delegation of staff and students to discuss the proposals in more detail”.

The letter – over a thousand words long – made clear the supporters of the campaign want the Veggie Café to return to the Schunck Building once the planned renovations are completed.

“Above all, we insist that the café must return to its current location once the refurbishments are complete”.

In the face of such strong demands, and with the January 2014 deadline for removal fast approaching, the argument over the future of the Veggie Café does not look like it will reach a conclusion any time soon.

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