You know that incredibly annoying saying, “this is why we can’t have nice things”? In its typical usage, I think it’s supposed to allude to a certain home-life dynamic, where a reckless child knocks over some ornamental vase, and their mom slowly loses the will to own anything of value due to its inevitable destruction from her little bundle of joy.
More recently, this sarcasm applies to the mounting feeling of desperation from existing in this weird, dichotomous timeline. Historically, we’re in the most peaceful time of humanity, but we’re also being forced to constantly process the tragedies of the entire world through our phones and media. As a result, the world as of late seems to suck more than ever, and the planned closure of the Maryland Food Co-op in Stamp Student Union is right on theme.
Let me clarify some things before I further explain myself. I am so, so grateful for the space that the Co-op has provided for so many people in our community. Being the grass-munching, earth-loving snowflake that I am, the Co-op was a place I always felt welcomed. I would likely find other grass-munchers there who shared my values and fostered a space of respect and understanding. My best friends and I have spent so many afternoons doing work, chatting — and, of course, enjoying the healthy and affordable food that can’t be found elsewhere on campus.
To enter an environment where the workers were given agency over their workplace and a voice for their concerns made me feel more comfortable spending my money there. The $10 spent on my sun-dried tomato wrap — the “Vegan Paradox” — with a side of dill pickle potato chips and unsweetened green tea was spent happily if it meant supporting a business that brought me joy. There is still hope and activism toward keeping the Co-op open, so I’m hesitant to accept defeat at this point. But this essay is a criticism of the system that created this crisis.
The impending closure of the Co-op is an unfair and upsetting loss for our community, but it does make sense. It’s a worker-owned center for activism and art. It focused on rejecting so many of the uglier aspects of not just capitalism, but our society as a whole.
Do you really think this university is the type of institution that would lift a single finger in order to ensure a space like the Co-op survives? I lost hope in this university’s leadership long, long ago, somewhere between the apathy toward the deaths of two black students, white nationalist propaganda on campus and other repeated missteps in feigning any semblance of genuine concern for the students they serve.
Stamp is owned by the university, and the workers of the Co-op have repeatedly proposed resolutions that would involve some debt forgiveness from this university. Their GoFundMe has raised over $10,000, with over 200 individual donors looking to preserve this community cornerstone that has persisted for more than 40 years.
I have to admit, there is a tiny shred of hope somewhere deep in my chest that the administration or the Student Facilities Fund will realize there is more than enough money in the budget to find a solution that allows the Co-op to exist. But their agenda has been made clear, through the purchases of nap pods that cost $21,818, a field house for an underachieving football program that cost $155 million, and a no-opt-out athletics fee that costs each full-time undergraduate student $203 for the current school year.
The Co-op is the little beacon of light that college students need in this phase of life — a safe, welcoming space that is geared toward unity, creativity and providing nutritious options for those that it serves. But take a look at the way our administration has established its relationship with the student body and their focuses on development in the coming years, and ask yourself this: would they really give a damn?