April 22, 2019 | 54° F

Rutgers students petition for convenience store on Cook/Douglass campus

Photo by Ana Couto |

Students drafted a petition after noticing the shortage of late night food options on the Cook/Douglass campuses. The document has collected more than 1,000 signatures so far and calls for the school to place a convenience store on the campus and keep the Douglass Cafe open later.

In its latest student advocacy effort, the Douglass Governing Council has turned its attention to the lack of food and grocery options available on Cook and Douglass campuses.

Zahra Bukhari, a junior in the Mason Gross School of the Arts and the president of the Douglass Governing Council, said that food is scarcely available on either the Cook or Douglass campuses. The food vendors close at 8 p.m. on weekdays, and earlier on weekends. There is also nowhere to buy basic household supplies like toilet paper or toothpaste, she said. 

“Deans at Douglass have voiced these concerns to Rutgers administration,” Bukhari said. “What the deans asked us to do is to provide a visual of the student support, which is why we wanted to use a petition to get some quantitative information rather than just qualitative information.”

The council has created a petition on change.org, which is co-sponsored by the SEBS Governing Council, the Rutgers Commuter Student Association and the Mason Gross Student Governing Association. 

Bukhari said that the petition was created about three weeks ago. So far, there are 1,150 signatures, with a goal of 1,500.

The petition lists three main objectives — first, that a convenience store should be established on either Cook or Douglass campuses. Second, that food trucks should be on campus. Third, that the hours of operation for the Douglass Cafe should be extended.

Mikayla Sciscente, a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences and the internal vice president of the Douglass Governing Council, said that the petition has been enthusiastically received by students.

“We've been physically tabling at student centers, but even before that, just having it online, there was a lot of positive feedback,” Sciscente said. “Even when you're sitting in the student centers and people hear about this, they're like, 'Yes, finally. We need this.'”

Sciscente said that one of the difficulties of this campaign is that there is no single office that determines how the food vendors conduct business. She said that the council is trying to appeal to the student centers and offices in charge of development. But because the change does not hinge on the decision of a single office or individual, student support is especially important.

Shahinaz Abdelhamid, the external vice president of the Douglass Governing Council and a junior in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, said that the Rutgers administration does have a long-term plan to revitalize all the New Brunswick campuses by the year 2030.

“So in 13 years we'll have (a convenience store),” Abdelhamid said. “It's not an answer to 'I have a problem now.'”

There is a real urgency to having better food options on both Cook and Douglass campuses, Bukhari said. Performing arts students at the Mason Gross School of the Arts attend classes on Douglass campus. Their schedules keep them on campus all day until late at night. Because there is nowhere to buy food on either Cook or Douglass campuses, performing arts students either have to bring food themselves or take a bus to George Street or College Avenue, where they can buy food.

Bukhari said that having places to buy food on either Cook or Douglass campuses would encourage students to make use of the campus centers.

“Any opportunity to eat is definitely what attracts students to stay on campus,” Bukhari said. “By 8 p.m., the student center is empty, and there's places to sit, places to study. Having food on campus, having a convenience store, really establishes Cook and Douglass campuses as a student hub. We want to rebuild that.”

In the past, there were more dining options available on either Cook or Douglass campuses. Sciscente said that there was a convenience store four or five years ago, and more recently there were regularly accessible food trucks.

“We're hoping that the suggestions that we put in place are not anything that's overbearing for the administration to answer to,” Bukhari said. “Like keeping the cafe open until 9 p.m. maybe. Having food trucks on campus. It's not like that was never a thing.”

Max Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.

Max Marcus

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