CSU to CusaCorp: Let Java U Contract Expire

Motion Binding Union’s For-Profit Arm to Seek Only Co-Op Tenants Passes

Photo Brandon Johnston

In an attempt to move forward from a seemingly cyclonic disagreement, the Concordia Student Union has officially obligated its for-profit arm to discontinue leasing the Hall Building mezzanine space to tenant Java U once the current lease expires.

The CSU had already been mandated by students to “establish or help found” a student-run café or restaurant in the space with a referendum question passed in the November byelections, which received about 80 per cent support.

But despite the CSU Judicial Board decision to respect the referendum results, multiple concerns continued into the new year among council members and members of CUSAcorp’s Board of Directors over the implementation of the referendum results and even the wording of the question—which some members of council argued was biased towards only two answers: a not-for-profit organization run by students in the space, or a for-profit corporation similar to its current tenant.

“The CSU becomes crippled by infighting all too often,” said CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler. “I am certain that this has been a large contributor to some of our most exciting, beneficial projects taking years to inch forward in their progress.”

“We took time to discuss our differences of opinion, and are now prepared to take the next step,” she continued. “It is not in the best interest of students to continue to fight over these differences.”

Differences first arose between certain CSU executives and councillors even before the Java U space question first appeared on the byelection ballot. CUSAcorp chairperson James Tyler Vaccaro—also CSU VP Clubs and Internal—told The Link in October that CUSAcorp would not seek to push out Java U from the space they currently still lease and would instead explore multiple new tenant options for long-term financial sustainability.

Under the motion approved by council on Jan. 8, CUSAcorp Board members will continue to explore the space’s financial sustainability, but only under student-run co-operative business models.

However, the motion won’t change much, according to Vaccaro.

“The motion that revolved around not renewing the Java U lease was not really a surprise to CUSAcorp,” said Vaccaro. “It pretty much would be expected from the plans [we had] we were going to be doing that anyway.”

The motion passed by council also stated CUSAcorp would investigate the space’s future from a financial standpoint while an internal ad-hoc committee formed by the CSU in November continues to determine the best co-op management structure and services that could be offered in the space.

This prompted some criticism from councillors, notably engineering and computer science representative Chuck Wilson.

Wilson told the rest of council on Jan. 8 that having a second group look into the space could potentially prove more costly or be redundant.

“They may indeed overlap, but this should not be a concern,” Wheeler told The Link.

“The motion was amended to include a clause ensuring that both bodies communicate and work together towards a common goal,” she continued, adding that because CUSAcorp has to present its findings during the regular council meeting in February, any overlap can be dealt with.

Focusing each group on different facets of establishing a co-op in the mezzanine space could also prove more effective, according to Vaccaro.

“I think it will allow everyone to focus on different parts of the project they feel are most important, and at the end of the day we’re all working towards the same goal,” he said.

And according to Jessica Cabana—a member of the CSU ad-hoc committee dealing with the Java U space who helped launch the referendum campaign in favour of removing the coffee shop from the mezzanine—the CSU’s motion is also symbolic of getting back on track.

“I think it’s a step towards what students voted for, which is in and of itself moving away from the debate around the referendum question,” she said.