Editorial: We Need a Student Centre Roadmap

  • Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

There is an issue of space at Concordia—but that’s nothing new.

For over 10 years, initiatives to open a student centre have been suggested, discussed (sometimes in secret), scrapped and reattempted, but Concordia students are no closer to having a space to call their own—despite millions in the bank for just that.

Last Friday, past and present Concordia Student Union executives converged on the seventh floor of the Hall Building to discuss the needs of students and the state of the CSU’s continued desire to purchase student space.

That desire is plagued by a chronic lack of focus and redundancies that continue to stall any progress towards actually acquiring a student centre. But with hard work and some vision, we can avoid starting from scratch again next year.

A lack of institutional memory—of a history of shady dealings with the university administration and repeated pressure to pay for the Faubourg Building—means this executive is still learning about the issue more than halfway through their mandate.

In the meantime, over $100,000 has been spent in the past two years surveying students, clubs and fee-levy groups about what their space needs actually are, despite nobody appearing happy with the quality of the data students paid for.

At Friday’s talks it was recommended that an oversight committee be established to ensure a continued focus and consistent vision—a committee the CSU has in the works.
But since Concordia undergrads have been paying into this student centre fund for a decade, we have to wonder why a permanent body hasn’t already been put in place to make sure the project really does move forward.

Lost amid more visible issues—a political push for a revamped food system, putting on events and fixing the CSU’s wasteland of a website—the student centre at this point seems like little more than a low-priority pipe dream.

Most students probably don’t even know they’re paying into a future student centre.

As 2011-2012 CSU President Lex Gill explained Friday, something of a vacuum was created in this issue after the CSU rejected the Faubourg for the last time during her mandate, and the concept of “student space” remains a nebulous one.

But students are still paying into a $13 million-and-growing student centre fund.

The political climate has radically changed since the pre-Faubourg days, when clashes between students and the university’s Board of Governors were common and a moratorium on free speech was imposed following the Netanyahu riots of 2002. But the benefits of student-run, student-owned space still ring true.

Student-centric small businesses could be housed. Space booking could be done without costly security requirements. We wouldn’t need to worry about the admin’s exclusivity contracts for food and drink options.

Any plans for a student centre going forward will require more focus and attention than what has been paid in recent memory. That means not just outlining its history for incoming executives, but leaving an outline for what their place is along the way to a student centre.

That means considering the student centre as student space and not fee-levy group space. Fee-levy groups are autonomous and the CSU shouldn’t be their landlords. When project management firm MHPM was hired by the CSU last year to interview fee-levy groups and clubs, we made it clear how such an arrangement opens the door to potential conflicts-of-interest.

The needs of fee-levy groups have been confused with those of students by third parties paid by the CSU to collect data. But the CSU is only responsible for the well-being of undergrads, and plans for a union-owned building should only involve its members.

Our union needs to come up with a roadmap for this project, before it all resets in the spring.

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