CSU-Run Daycare Project Moving Forward, Reggie’s to Remain Closed Until September
CSU Executives Meet with University to Find a Space for a New Daycare on Campus
Concordia Student Union executives have begun meeting with university administrators to try to find a space on campus for a CSU-run daycare.
At last Wednesday’s CSU council meeting, VP Academic and Advocacy Terry Wilkings said he met with Roger Côté, the university’s VP Services, before the end of the fall semester. Martine Lehoux, Concordia’s director of facilities management and planning, also attended the meeting, which Wilkings described as “a really positive gesture.”
“I think that’s a really strong indicator that they take the need to establish the daycare very seriously, as opposed to holding several meetings and delaying as much as they can,” he told council.
“Several locations were discussed at both campuses,” he added. “These were hypothetical suggestions that are now being explored.”
Undergrads voted 86.8 per cent in favour of prioritizing the daycare project in the CSU’s by-elections last November.
There are already two daycares at the university, but the CSU says the “vast majority” of spots in these centres go to faculty and staff, not students. Additionally, neither daycare offers evening or drop-in care, a further reason why they’re not meeting the needs of student parents, according to the CSU.
A 2011 report by the university found that approximately 10 per cent of Concordia students are parents, although the report’s authors said their survey results might not be representative of the whole student population due to a low response rate.
Wilkings tabled a 24-page report at the meeting detailing space and staff requirements for the eventual daycare, as well as estimates of the set-up and operating costs, based on three different scenarios—a daycare with 24, 50 or 80 spots.
He said the production of the report was “very helpful” in demonstrating to the university that the CSU is aware of regulatory requirements for daycares in the province.
Excluding construction costs, the report anticipates set-up costs to be between $26,800 and $37,600. Operating costs could vary from about $359,000 to $1.1 million annually, depending on the number of spots, although the union could get roughly $239,000 to $796,800 in provincial subsidies.
Wilkings cautioned that detailed financial estimates cannot be calculated until the CSU knows where the daycare will be located.
Students will have to wait a while longer before they can have an after-school drink at Reggie’s, Concordia’s student-run campus bar. CSU President Benjamin Prunty told council that the bar—which was closed in October 2013 for renovations originally supposed to take three months—isn’t likely to open until September.
Kate Bellini, VP Clubs and Internal Affairs, said the CSU has now approved the conceptual design for the space so its architectural firm is “increasing the amount of details […] so that it can afterwards go to tender.”
“As it stands, the construction phase should start in late February, March,” she said. “The timeline needs to be adjusted, so I’d rather not give a final date for the project right now.”
Prunty said the cost of the renovations could be a roadblock.
“We have to answer the question of whether or not our board has the legitimacy to approve an expense that’s over $1 million, and we’re not really sure if that’s the case or not,” he said. “It’s going to be up to council how we move forward.”
VP Finance Heather Nagy told council that the CSU will be in a good financial position for the remainder of this year. “We won’t come up against any cash-flow problems,” she said. “All of our expenses are on track.”
However, the union may face a negative cash flow at the start of the next academic year.
“The major problem […] is the nature of the activities and when they happen at the CSU,” Nagy said. “The CSU’s largest activities happen at Orientation, at the beginning of the year, before we actually get our fee levies from students. That happens at the end of October.”
Nagy said the cash-flow issue will put next year’s executives in a “crunch” for the first two or three months of their mandate, before the university passes over the student fees it collects on behalf of the CSU. She said the union doesn’t yet have a “concrete plan” to circumvent the problem.
“[The solution] may be something as simple as [looking at] Orientation expenses and when they’re paid,” she said. “We were proud that we were able to pay off our Orientation expenses by the time the Orientation was done, but maybe in hindsight, we should have left some of the larger suppliers until after we got our surge [of revenue] from student fees in late October.”
John Molson School of Business councillor Scott Carr, who served as the CSU’s VP Finance last year, said he wasn’t particularly concerned about a negative cash flow.
“I think every student organization in this university goes through that exact same cash-flow issue every August,” he said.