Disease, Refugees and Other Scourges: A Comprehensive look at the History of Cups at Queen’s


Near infinite independence, an unprecedented access to alcohol and a litany of bad influences are some of the hazards which await students in their first year at Queen’s. This list fails to mention their most heinous tribulation: dehydration. With the aggravating factor being the size of cups available in the dining halls.

The study of cups is a surprisingly nuanced one. Known as pocumology, derived from the latin word for cup: poculum, it was pioneered by thinkers such as Pythagoras, Alan Turing and oddly enough Wes Anderson, whose obsession with symmetry was inspired through his love of the popular drinking instrument.

Queen’s, unfortunately, does not have a pocumology department. However, after some sodexo archive diving and hard brow investigative journalism I was able to clarify some of the nebulousness surrounding the topic.

Cups were first introduced to Queen’s in 1907 in an effort to kickstart their agriculture department. Students hikes were organized from Lake Ontario to Queen’s owned farmland in the greater Kingston area, with each of the students wielding a standard 5.07 Ounce cup with the goal of disseminating this water over the farmland. This program was discontinued in 1918 when new trench technology from Europe provided an efficient, and less labour intensive alternative to watering the crops.

These now antiquated cups eventually found their way into the Dining Hall’s of Queen’s University where, in 1923 they found a new purpose, hydration. Students were able to enjoy them up until 1941 when unfortunately, due to war rationing Queen’s had to move to the 2.34 Ounce cup that students continue to use today. With the exception of West Campus, whose wartime neutrality meant exemption from said rationing.

These cups, due to some convoluted sense of tradition, have stuck around. And dining hall goers have suffered the consequences ever since. Those concerned with avoiding dehydration are faced with a quagmire, whereby either they load their tray with cups, the added weight increasing their risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Or, they continuously refill the same cup, each successive trip augmenting the risk of cross-contamination and slippage.

And as for the majority who decide, understandably, that the drawbacks of hitting their daily water quota whilst in the dining hall aren’t worth it? Well, some turn to alcohol which only serves to worsen the near ubiquitous drinking culture present at the university. Others turn to bottled water, creating needless, easily avoidable pollution. Some even migrate towards West Campus in search of the fabled standard 5.07 Ounce cup, this diaspora creating congestion and shortages. Most however, unable to abide by any of these options, do nothing. Choosing instead to slowly wither away.

Mr. Woolf, I implore you on behalf of the students of today and tomorrow. Stop pushing your students towards belligerency, immigration, pollution, masochism and disease. Put hydration ahead of history, and enlarge our cups.