Space Race 2011

Who Will Claim Your Space on Campus?

During a meeting on student space with former Concordia VP Services Michael Di Grappa in the late ‘90s, Bilal Hamideh whipped out a mat in the middle of the administrator’s office and began to pray.

President of the Muslim Students’ Association from 2000 to 2005, it was Hamideh who first negotiated the contract for Muslim students to have religious spaces to congregate. He is currently running for re-election to Senate under the Your Concordia slate.

Fast-forward 13 years and current MSA President Rasim Hafiz is now at the helm of Action’s student space campaign. He was given the portfolio due to his ongoing encounters with the administration about prayer facilities since their agreement expired last August. Hafiz has expressed plans for the MSA to lawyer-up since September.

“My experience speaking with high officials permits me, in terms of that dialogue with administration, to lobby for those discussions, whether it be [for] religion or student space in general,” he said of his “back and forth” negotiations.

However, Hafiz was unable to provide a play-by-play outlining Action’s detailed tactics to acquire more space for students—explaining with care that all his party’s platform points begin with consultation and committees.

But with issue of student space gaining increasing relevancy since the overwhelming failure of the Faubourg centre referendum question last November, little direct action has been taken to improve the situation. Increasingly a premium at this university, space is predictably at the heart of many platform points on both sides of the slate spectrum.

Paying attention to this shift, Your Concordia has changed their VP Projects position to “VP Student Space” to get with the times. The hopeful candidate for this portfolio is Gonzo Nieto.

Nieto prioritized cleaning out CSU storage spaces and the Reggie’s basement as a short-term goal. He also wants to create a clubs council and implement subsidies to make the room-booking process easier. Nieto explained that, while his slate will always start with consultation, it should be able to move on concrete actions fairly quickly.

In addition to his experience as an executive on überculture Concordia—a grassroots, student-run organization committed to the public reclamation of the cultural space—Nieto can also be accredited for starting one of the unofficial “No” campaigns that cropped up during the Student Centre referendum period.

The contract for students to purchase a multi-million dollar building with the administration remains an ongoing concern for the CSU and is likely the most tangible of all the space-related issues in the campaign.

Each slate has a dramatically different approach to, and understanding of, the $43 million agreement and what can be done about it.

“I want to make it clear that we’re not going to be increasing that fee […] and no, there is no binding contract right now,” said Action presidential candidate Khalil Haddad at the debate last Wednesday. “We can talk to [the administration], we can negotiate and make sure we have control at the end of the day.”

The presidential candidate for Your Concordia, Lex Gill, fired back:
“Let me clarify something Khalil just said: there is a binding contract with the administration, […] governing the purchase and operation of a student union building. That contract needs to be renegotiated,” said Gill, emphasizing her party’s platform point of a “good deal or no deal” in regards to the proposed student centre.
“If we’re going to move forward on issues of student space, then let’s talk about what autonomous, student-owned and student-controlled student space actually looks like,” she added.

So what does this our space case look like under each of the hopeful parties? Take a look at both at both slate’s space platforms and backgrounds, and head to the ballot box. Your space depends on it.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 28, published March 29, 2011.