Student Centre Dreams Turning into Reality, Slowly

Past and Present CSU Execs Discuss History of Student Centre Initiative, Potential Plans to Build One

The Concordia Student Union has millions of dollars set aside to build a student centre—but don’t expect one anytime soon.

According to former CSU executive Peter Schiefke, popular opinion towards a student centre soured years ago, in 2006. That was the year the university administration proposed the Faubourg as a possible location.

Schiefke, along with other CSU executives past and present, went over the long history of the union’s quest for a student centre on Friday, in an open discussion titled “Student Centre Dialogues.”

The union has over $13 million earmarked for the centre, currently sitting in a bank account. Each year this increases by about $1.3 million through a $1.50-per-credit fee levy paid by all Concordia undergrads and interest.

Students voted in last week’s byelection to increase the maximum value of immovable properties the CSU can own from $2 million to $50 million—a necessity if the union is ever going to own a building downtown.

Still, CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler says what’s important right now is for her executive to know its history before making any concrete plans going forward—and to ensure future executives get this knowledge at the beginning of their mandate.

“We need to make it basically impossible to not have [this information] at your fingertips,” said Wheeler at the meeting.

Wheeler also said the current university administration scoffs at the idea of trying to yet again pitch the Faubourg to students—parts of which Concordia currently leases and owns—as a potential building. Undergraduates have repeatedly rejected the idea through referendum questions.

2001-2002 CSU President Patrice Blais, under whom the student centre fee levy was first passed, presented ideas for a governance structure he says would keep moving forward even if a bad crop of CSU executives are elected for a year.

2011-2012 CSU President Lex Gill added some recommendations for current union executives: form an oversight committee, hire professionals to manage the student centre portfolio, plan a funding model and determine what rights the union has to any current student space.

Wheeler says an oversight committee is in the works.

Last year the CSU paid project management firm MHPM $97,500 to interview student groups to learn about their space needs. The year before, Léger Marketing was hired to conduct a student space survey for $11,046.80—the cost of which was covered by interest accrued over one year on undergraduate fees for the student centre.