Oct 16th, 2020, 09:32 PM

H2O, Please!

By Presleigh Lauren Murray
Image Credit: Presleigh Lauren Murray
Image Credit: Presleigh Lauren Murray
The lack of food and drink options at AUP is causing discontent among students.

Paris, with all of its eclectic cafés, bountiful boulangeries and savory pâtisseries. Students, with all of their monetary restraints, dietary restrictions and limited time. Living in the City of Light can quickly become a struggle for students with insufficient resources. The importance of one's university providing adequate, fair-priced eating and drinking facilities becomes close to a necessity. 

A recent survey at the American University of Paris shows that students are increasingly frustrated with the lack of dining spaces and drinking fountains on campus. Respondents included 13 current AUP students, while another seven agreed to in-person interviews. The results were consistent: discontentment. 

At a typical American university, there is a dining hall where students have daily access to fresh food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, usually via a prepaid meal plan. The typical push-a-button-and-drink-from-a-spout water fountains are a common sight in most American universities as well. Yet, at The American University of Paris, these things do not exist. Students know when applying to the university that there will both advantages and disadvantages to attending a college which is, for most, in a foreign country. They do not expect, however, to have such limited access to basic necessities while on campus, unless one counts the candy-filled vending machines as proper nutrition.  

A vending machine on campus. Image Credit: Presleigh Lauren Murray

The survey sheds light on students' feelings about AUP's accommodations. Regarding the question of where to eat on campus, respondents reported they had a limited range of solutions. One student said they eat in "the basement library. I just hope no one notices," while another stated, "[there is] not a good place to eat on campus. I heard the 8th-floor of Quai but [it is] very out of the way." Another respondent said that she sometimes eats her lunch in the bathrooms. A few mentioned how the Amex has strict rules on no outside food, and even the one designated area at the six-building campus has restricted eating hours. Oh, the joy of bringing your lunch to school, finding a short break in your day to eat it, heading to the Amex just to be told you can't eat it there, moving to the library and taking two bites just to be told you can't eat it there, and ultimately ending up with no more time and an untouched lunch.

Rules for eating in Quai and Combes. Image Credit: Presleigh Lauren Murray

Next, the online survey asked why students bring their food to school in the first place, rather than eating at the Amex or nearby cafés. The responses were consistent: monetary restraints, dietary restrictions and limited time. Some students mentioned that they were vegetarian or vegan, with the vegans particularly emphasizing how the Amex does not have options for them other than the soupe de jour or french fries. For these students, having a planned, varied and balanced diet is of the utmost importance, as they must eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes to get an adequate amount of essential vitamins; this is something omnivores do not have to worry so much about. These students, in particular, felt that their mission was much bigger than themselves: in most cases, to benefit the earth and its ecosystems. Yet, not only has the lack of resources at AUP made their lives difficult, in some scenarios, it has made it practically impossible: where do they go to eat their lunch brought from home?

Third-year student Chloe Lyons stated in an interview that "I bring whatever I cooked for dinner the night before to save money, and because I am vegan and there are not many options for me at the Amex." Lyons went on to conclude, "I am tired of eating cold lasagna because there are so few microwaves around campus, and I am tired of seeing people disregard the planet when buying plastic water bottles because that is practically the only thing available on campus." 

Lastly, the survey delved into the question of appliances that AUP offers, specifically microwaves and drinking fountains. Nearly half of participants stated that they did not know where the microwaves on campus were. Interestingly, their location seemed to be some sort of big mystery: "I've heard there's one in Grenelle, but I'm not sure," and "isn't there one in the Quai?" were some responses.

Microwave in the Quai building. Image Credit: Presleigh Lauren Murray

Though AUP has considerable work to do before students feel they have ample spaces and resources for eating, both the online survey and in-person interviews shed light on the biggest issue of all: the lack of access to drinking water. The answers were discouraging when students were asked the following questions: "What has your experience with finding water on AUP's campus been like? Do you know where the water stations are? Do you buy plastic water bottles from the vending machines?" 

One student replied to the survey that she "[has] no idea where the water stations are and [she will usually] get a bottle from the Amex." Another stated a recurring theme: "to be honest, I just bring a big water bottle from home and hope I don't run out. I am still not sure where the stations are for filling up." Another student mentioned that she has a condition where she needs lots of water throughout the day and that AUP's lack of access to water is her "own personal hell."

Augie Sommers, a 1st-year student at AUP, put it simply when in his interview he asked, "why are there no water fountains?!" 

Water dispenser in the Quai building. Image Credit: Presleigh Lauren Murray

So, AUP, students know that there are plenty of food options on every corner of Paris. Students know that the city's tap water is safe for human consumption. Students know that they are lucky to have the Amex on campus. But they wonder if you are thinking of the vegetarians and vegans who have to bring their own lunch to school if they are to get all the necessary vitamins and nutrients in their diet — Amex french fries are not cutting it. They wonder if you are thinking of the people who are on a strict budget and for whom having the ability to cook something for dinner and also eat it the next day is the financially savvy thing to do. They wonder if you are thinking of the students who stay on campus from open to close: finding food can sometimes become a burdensome task. They wonder if you are thinking of the students who have a majority of courses in Saint-Dominique or Monttessuy and do not have the time to go to the Amex in between classes. They wonder if you are thinking of the planet when students quite literally must buy a plastic water bottle when they need water while on campus. They wonder if you are thinking of the students whose reusable water bottles do not fit under the sink faucet. They wonder if you are remembering the students who have monetary restraints, dietary restrictions and limited time.

The student body has spoken, and they are quite literally begging for H2O, please.