Community Building

No to the Faux-Bourg. Now What? 

Graphic David Barlow-Krelina

Student space has been a contentious issue at Concordia for over a decade.

Student space has been a contentious issue at Concordia for over a decade.

I recently explained the issues to a friend of mine in detail—explaining that students have been paying a fee levy to their student union under the premise that the money collected will go towards the purchase or construction of a student union building. I explained that last year our union asked us twice if we would up the fee levy, and that both times students shut it down. I explained the controversy surrounding the Faubourg contract.

All that for him to say, “So what’s a student centre anyway? A place where we can hang out? We don’t need that.”

Last year, concerns were raised about the student centre’s location, its price, and who would control it, but we forgot to ask one of the most important questions: why do students need a building to begin with?

Well, we don’t. More than that, we don’t want to pay $27 million for a building whose purpose was never even clearly defined. We don’t need it.

Throwing all 35,000 of us into one space will not make this university more of a community. A single building can’t cater to every student’s needs. The kind of space a dance major wants is totally different than someone in marketing or English lit. A social butterfly will want a different space entirely than an extracurricular overachiever.

So, how could we build a student centre that caters to all of these groups?

We can’t. So we should be investing in existing student space.

Working to improve space that is already geared towards specific needs is not only more efficient and intelligent, but it also speaks to Concordia’s diverse student body.

Student groups and organizations at Concordia are scattered across both campuses, in spaces that have been their own for years and, in some cases, decades. Some of these organizations have offices in beautiful heritage buildings that have become a part of who they are, and most importantly, of what Concordia is.

This university, like it or not, is located in the heart of downtown and will not have beautiful green fields for you to lay on under a tree in between classes, and it will never have majestic buildings and entrances the way McGill does. Our campus is built on diversity and un-uniformity.

We need to stop striving to mimic the image of American universities and focus on what we can do with the student space we have—without a new building.
What we want is access to what is already ours. We want to reclaim it. We want corporations off our space. We don’t want Tim Horton’s, Subway or A&W. We want to buy back the Java U and open a student-run, student-funded café with cheap coffee.

We want a mezzanine that doesn’t look like a massive waiting room with sad, fluorescent light-grown plants and stiff, plasticky couches. We want green space behind the Hall Building and we want to be able to hang out at the Grey Nuns garden. We don’t want to be shoved together willy-nilly into a new student centre regardless of our interests.

We’ve already said we don’t want the Faubourg, but do we want a union building at all? The referendum from 2003 can and should be overridden by another referendum, one that could change the way the CSU uses our $8.1 million, and proposes new projects—projects that would benefit students the way they see fit; projects that could be suggested by students and voted on by students.

Projects that would take in consideration what we already possess and don’t try to force a community to share a building. Instead, we could focus on projects that build our community.

We want everyone to benefit from the little fortune the CSU has collected over the years, and one big block of cement will never cut it.