Talking with CSU President Benjamin Prunty
With the student-run Mezz Hive café already welcoming customers in the Hall Building, and its long-awaited counterpart on the Loyola campus expected to open as early as this week, the academic year is off to a promising start for Concordia Student Union President Benjamin Prunty and his team, which placed issues like food sovereignty and support for student groups front and centre in last March’s elections.
Still, making headway on their lengthy to-do list will be an uphill battle. The Link sat down with Prunty to discuss the CSU’s major projects.
Students looking to grab a couple of beers with friends after class will have to go somewhere other than Reggie’s, Concordia’s student-run bar, yet again this year.
The bar—which is owned by the CSU through its for-profit wing, CUSAcorp—closed last October for renovations originally slated to take three months. Prunty now says the “best-case scenario” would see the bar reopening in February 2015.
“It’s unlikely that Reggie’s will be open for regular business this year, although it’s a possibility,” he said.
Prunty’s team is also researching the possibility of building a greenhouse above the Hive café on the Loyola campus, which was also outlined in the elections.
“If it’s not something that we can guarantee in our year [as executives], it’s something we want to make sure is prepared for the year after,” Prunty said. “We can expect up to 50 per cent of it to be subsidized by the government in grants because of the nature of the project. That’s actually really helpful.”
This year’s union is looking into the possibility of opening its own daycare service. The university’s daycare service has a two-year waiting list, according to Prunty.
“Concordia is kind of a home for non-traditional students, student parents being non-traditional students. […] There are a number of students that have kids and the kinds of services the university offers are completely inadequate on this front,” he said.
But Prunty said the plan is still in “its infant stage, no pun intended,” as the CSU has begun only preliminary research into the project.
Food Services on Campus
Prunty said he’s “not satisfied” with the university’s consultation process ahead of the expiration of its contract with food service provider Chartwells. But he acknowledged “a higher level of communication than there has been in the past between the university and the students on this issue.”
He said he wants to see the university take “clear steps” towards a more localized food system. Although administrators have told student representatives that “what students are pushing for is in line with the vision of the university,” Prunty says they will have to “put their money where their mouth is.”
He acknowledged the university’s help getting student initiatives like the Hive off the ground by prioritizing their construction, but added that Concordia’s next contract with a food service provider could hamper the growth of future student-run food initiatives.
“We want this contract to be transitional, and this means easing off, not increasing, the embedded control of key locations on campus,” he said. “We want students to be able to take on spaces that are currently administered by Chartwells, as per the current contract.”
Prunty said he’s still waiting to hear whether the contract’s length this time around will be shorter than the last one.
“Another 12-year contract could hinder the momentum that is here today.”