Once Upon a Student Centre

  • Photo Erin Sparks

After years of student space issues wrought with contention and financial ambiguity, the Concordia Student Union executive says they are doing what should have done ten years ago—some research, a student-wide consultation and some proper planning.

“Talking to students is something that should have been done since the inception of this process, “ said CSU President Schubert Laforest.

“Now we are kind of working backwards in terms of how this project should be going—you know, getting the money and then a decade later asking students what they need.”

In order to do so, they have sought out some assistance.

Nadine Atallah, CSU VP Clubs and Internal worked this summer searching for management companies that could help the union in their attempts to define and determine the wants and needs of Concordia students in terms of student space.

This company would be enlisted to further transform this information into a tangible project implementation plan that would move things forward in accordance with students’ wants.

Atallah came up with several options that were presented to council. Here is a brief summary of the proposals that were presented but didn’t end up making the cut:

Somni Group

Sometime this summer, Peter Schiefke, a representative from Somni Group, approached the CSU.

Schiefke, who was the CSU’s VP Student Life in 2005, is also the founder of Concordia’s Volunteer Abroad Program. He and a colleague of his presented the union with a proposal and presentation on how they ought to be addressing and moving forward with issues pertaining to student space.

Somni Group derives its name from the Latin word “somnium,” which means “to dream.” The company’s self-described mission is to help whomever they work with realize their dreams—whatever they may be.

Atallah says that at the time when Schiefke approached her, she didn’t realize that he had ties to the union or the school.

A bit of quick research changed that, but she says his relationship to this school didn’t figure as a factor into the decision making process of whether to reject or accept Somni Group’s proposal.

One issue that did factor into the decision-making process came when it was time to follow up with references.

Somni Group told Atallah that they had worked with the University of Toronto and the Alma Mater Society of the University of British Columbia on their respective student centre projects.

So Atallah called them up. Neither had any recollection of ever working with Somni Group, or anyone by the name of Peter Schiefke.

Somni Group’s webpage, however, puts forth working with Veterans Affairs Canada, Youth Action Canada and Youth Action Montreal as three of four projects listed in their portfolio.

Schiefke’s name comes up on VAC’s webpage as having worked as the Project Creator and Executive Director of the We Will Always Remember project, and he is the co-founder and president of both Youth Action Montreal and Youth Action Canada.

Had they gone ahead with it, the proposal would have cost the CSU $264,600 plus tax.

Guy Brisebois

Guy Brisebois came to the CSU as an alternative option that really falls in a category of its own.

Brisebois sent an email to the CSU that included his CV and a note expressing his interest in working with the union to move forward on their dealings with student space.

“I think this project is so much bigger than just one person can take on, so we didn’t spend too much time on this particular proposal,” explained Atallah.

“We were really looking for a professional company to take on this project, but in the interest of being transparent and honest I wanted to present this option to council to let them know that it was on the table.”

Atallah says that Brisebois would have been paid an hourly rate for his services, but his application wasn’t really taken into consideration to the point that finances were even discussed.

Stantec

Stantec is a self-proclaimed world-class leader in delivering sustainable solutions to its clients, who come from a variety of markets in both the private and public sectors.

This is probably the proposal that would have been the most similar option to that presented by MHPM—but it was always more dream than reality.

Atallah says she attempted on four separate occasions to request a proposal from the company, but received no response.

“We were a little bit disappointed and would have loved to receive Stantec’s proposals,” said Atallah. “But it never came through—which is fair, this might not be a project they were interested in since it’s a relatively small project and it’s not project management but rather project planning.”

Since no proposal was actually presented to the CSU, a potential cost for this option cannot be estimated.

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