Anti-consumerism not welcomed
By Marcus Staviss
Confusion surrounded the status of Western's participation in this year's national Buy Nothing Day due to the perceived potential for losses of sales in the University Community Centre.
The conflict began when Western's chapter of Oxford Famine Relief made plans to set up a booth in the UCC atrium on Friday in observance of Buy Nothing Day.
According to Amelia Peltz, a fourth-year politics student and vice-president of Oxfam at Western, the University Students' Council originally denied Oxfam's request to set up the booth in the atrium. "We're certainly not approaching people and telling them not to buy anything," Peltz said. "We're simply presenting an alternative to consumerism."
According to Peltz, Buy Nothing Day is meant for educating people on the effects of consumerism in our society.
Peter Hill, VP-campus issues for the USC, said there was some worry Oxfam's booth would have had a negative impact on UCC vendor sales.
"Buy Nothing Day was in conflict with previous corporate interests Buy Nothing Day is not bad, but it must be balanced," he said.
Peltz said Oxfam plans to spread word about Buy Nothing Day around campus, as well as distribute pamphlets about consumerism through the atrium booth.
To help appease both the vendors and Oxfam, the USC has offered a compromise. According to Hill, the USC's plan would allow pamphlets to be distributed through Oxfam's booth set up for Hurricane Mitch relief.
However, Oxfam would not be permitted to put up any banners in the atrium proclaiming Buy Nothing Day. "It is important to realize that Buy Nothing Day has not been banned by the USC," Hill said. "We believe we've found a suitable compromise we owe it to the vendors to provide a fair commercial environment.
"We owe merchants the same respect that we offer students and both parties should be satisfied this is a good compromise."
Hill said the USC must maintain a balance between student and corporate interests.
"Merchants pay for the use of the space in the UCC. This supplements the USC budget, ensuring student fees are kept down. In this way, the USC can make maintain the best level of student services in the country," Hill said.
According to Selena Horrell, a third-year English and anthropology student and president of Western's chapter of Oxfam, the USC has allowed Oxfam to distribute materials outside of the UCC. "Hopefully this will have an impact on student awareness of Buy Nothing Day," Horrell said.
Susan Grindrod, senior director of housing and ancillary services, said she is not overly concerned about the effect of Buy Nothing Day. "People have to buy their lunch anyway whether they buy the food from a grocery store or at CentreSpot."