Opinion | Staff Editorials


During this delightfully nippy time of year, many animals, Columbia students included, begin preparing for hibernation. The bears and the bats head off to their respective caves, and the Columbia students head off to Butler. The chipmunks store nuts and berries in their cheeks, and the Columbia students stuff sushi and HamDel sandwiches into their backpacks. Fortunately for the chipmunks, they don’t have to sneak their food past any security guards, unlike us when we go into Butler.

We take issue with Butler’s food policy. What are starving students to do when Blue Java Coffee Bar is closed? What about students who can’t afford the $2 small coffees (more expensive than Starbucks!)? And last, but certainly not least, what if we just really want coffee that doesn’t taste like the shower water in McBain?

Butler’s food policy states, “To best accommodate the needs of our patrons while protecting and preserving our spaces and collections, food and drink are permitted only in designated areas in Butler Library.” That certainly seems logical and fair. However, what simply doesn’t make any sense is why the policy goes on to say, “Food cannot be brought into Butler Library.” What sort of rationale allows students to eat, but not bring in their own food?

It should be noted that some areas of Butler restrict food entirely, as they should; food in some places can definitely pose a risk to certain book collections. After all, you don’t want to have someone eating a Thanksgiving dinner across from you while you’re trying to study. 

The right to food, however, is necessary—students are often in Butler for hours on end and need to eat or drink at some point.

We ask that students be allowed to bring outside food and drink into Butler. We understand that there may be further restrictions on this: In the Northwest Corner Building’s library, you are allowed to bring in drinks, but only if they are in certain types of containers. Perhaps, in order to mitigate abuse of the rule, guidelines that suggest not bringing certain types of food and drink—particularly odorous ones—could be implemented.

The University’s current policy is hypocritical and solely for the gain of Blue Java Coffee Bar, the only place inside Butler where food can be bought. Blue Java is nothing less than a monopoly under this policy, and it has used that to its advantage by gouging prices. 

Ultimately, Butler’s food policy is not in place for protection of the library and its precious resources. Blue Java’s reign should end, so that students might choose where to purchase their watery coffee, so that students can eat a Milano sandwich proudly and with impunity, and so that no student need ever starve for his or her studies.

To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.


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RIGHT? posted on


Francie Mrkich, Dir. of Access Svcs, Columbia Libraries posted on

We try to find a middle ground when it comes to Butler’s food policy. We know that many of you spend long hours in Butler and want the convenience of being able to eat while studying or researching. Providing food choices in Blue Java is the way we can offer the convenience of buying foods, snacks and drinks, but avoid "outside" foods that open up a host of issues that come with strong-smelling or messy foods (like pizza), including complaints from our users about the odors of the food or the mess it leaves behind. Having a no outside food policy may seem picky, but the guard on duty is asked to follow the policy and not make judgment calls about what food is or isn’t allowed inside.

Believe it or not, we receive more complaints about individuals not following our current policy than we do about not being able to bring in outside food. For that reason, we created specific food/drink zones in the library to accommodate different needs. Check http://library.columbia.edu/content/dam/libraryweb/locations/butler/Guide_Butler_Study_Spaces.pdf to learn more about the different food zones.

Anonymous posted on

Very good point. I would not want to be trying to work near spmeone who is eating hot, aromatic food. It would be disturbing. I do not the editorial board did a good job thinking this through.

Anonymous posted on

Good writing - though I would stress the economic nonsense that accompanies the policy. Dining Services seems to correlate bringing food into the library with certain safety hazards - a claim that is completely undermined by the presence of foodservice within the library itself. Keeping a healthy and satisfied labor force in Columbia's facilities may require higher prices - but let's not pretend that this issue is about anything other than that. If labor demands require non-competition from outside food vendors, the dialogue should be opened up to the student body so a common solution can be pursued.