A “Fresh Face” for Student Space

CSU Attempts to Re-Brand the Concept of a Student Centre

According to posters currently lining the university’s walls, a student centre is finally coming to Concordia—and it’s called The Habitat.

But if you ask the Concordia Student Union, what you’re actually seeing is the first phase attempting to re-brand the stigma-wrought, contentious concept of student space at this school.

The new brand aims to turn over a new leaf, moving forward from a history replete with two consecutive failed referendums seeking fee levy increases and a highly controversial contract, which almost led to the inking of a $54 million deal that would have seen the union jointly purchase the Faubourg Building with the university.

“You can’t really talk about space if you are talking about a centre—which is why we rebranded it,” explained CSU VP Clubs and Internal Nadine Atallah, who has been actively working alongside project management company MHPM to define Concordia students’ wants and needs when it comes to student space.

“This project is still really abstract and there isn’t a site that we’ve picked out yet; there is nothing to see and nothing tangible for people to touch, so it’s difficult for us to explain,” said Atallah.

“But we wanted to give a visual for people to see without implanting an idea of what this would look like—we want them to tell us what this would look like, not the other way around.”

She said the posters’ written and graphic ambiguity is intentional, as it depicts a space that has yet to be identified or created.

The posters, appearing this past Friday, are the first—a teaser—in a series of two, leading to a launch party on Feb. 28. The aim was to pique students’ curiosity and rejuvenate interest and awareness concerning student space at the university.

Atallah said the idea for the campaign, which was spearheaded primarily by herself, and the campaign’s designer, Katie Brioux, surfaced during a brainstorming session attempting to outline a promotion strategy for the union’s ongoing online student-space survey.

“I just wanted to give it a fresh look so people say, ‘Hey, we really don’t have a student centre and The Habitat sounds fun and cool and I do want that,’” explained Brioux.

Gonzo Nieto, CSU councillor and member of the ad-hoc student space committee, said he’d heard little of the campaign before it was largely drafted and ready to go.

“I don’t think that the messaging is clear, and I feel like there is a lot more that needs to be made concrete and be decided upon on the whole organizational side of this project before this kind of step is taken,” he said.

Funding for both the poster campaign and for the launch party will come from one of the CSU’s budget lines, and is not included in the $97,500 in fees they are paying project management company MPHM.

Patrick Goodwin, the CSU’s primary liaison with the company, said that, while MHPM was almost entirely uninvolved with the campaign’s creative side, they very much approved of both the concept and the design.

“We were always trying to get a definition for the space that didn’t necessarily come from its address or anything like that—but that came from what it was and what it should be,” he said, adding that when it comes time for the company to present tangible options to students, they will ensure they “fulfill the definition of the habitat.”

Atallah emphasized that while they remain on the same page, the re-branding strategy and the union’s work with MHPM are two very separate projects.

“It’s more to do with the fact that we’ve lost sight of what student space means, and where we are with this project, and it’s gained this really heavy past and that’s really not in line with what we see as student space and what we are working on right now.”

The CSU intends to present several student space options to students by the end of the month, having taken into consideration the responses to the research they’ve conducted alongside MHPM over the past months.

Learn more about Concordia’s history of student centre plans on our Archives Blog page.