The Student Space Saga

Graphic Jayde Norström

How much of Concordia’s space belongs to students?

How much of Concordia’s space belongs to students? As Concordia continues to grow, making everything fit has been a constant problem. After nearly a decade of saving, our student union has literally millions of dollars tucked away to spend on a student centre—a fixture in many Canadian university campuses—but just finding the space for it remains a challenge.

In 2006 the Concordia Student Union was in conversation with the administration about buying the Faubourg building, a decrepit former mall with more than a few six-legged friends, for a student centre. The plan was to rent out the building’s first two floors until it was paid off, with the union providing the down payment for a loan to buy the space. Students had been paying a per-credit fee since 2003 (which increased from $1.00 to $2.00 in 2005) to fund student space initiatives.

That October, however, the union ruled out buying the Faubourg. Then-VP External Justin Levy said the administration needed to be clearer on who would actually own the building and have authority over it.

Politics could have been a factor too. Then-CSU VP Campus Relations Taylor Noakes resigned early into the fall semester, citing that his slate was not fulfilling their campaign promises, and told The Link that the union was being pressured by the administration to go along with the Faubourg plan.

“They wanted [the CSU] to do all the marketing for this, they wanted us to sell [the Faubourg] to the students,” he told The Link in 2006.

“Most importantly, they wanted us to sell to the students this concept that a $5.00 per- credit course fee was completely acceptable and something we had to do,” he said.

But that was far from the end of this saga.

Two failed referenda—in March and Nov. 2010—proposed increasing the $2.00 per-credit fee to $4.50, after the administration had projected construction and maintenance of a student centre would require a higher fee levy. 2009-2010 CSU President Keyana Kashfi had made an agreement that the CSU would provide a $10- million down payment on a loan to purchase a building for a student centre. That same document stipulated that the university would be the owner of the building, with the union claiming this would save money in taxes and insurance.

Before students went to the polls for the second time on the levy increase, The Link ran an exposé revealing that if it went through, the centre would indeed be housed in the Faubourg. Sixty-nine per cent of voters opposed the increase.

But that didn’t spoil the administration’s appetite for the building.

The administration told student media in Feb. 2011 that they were still very much interested in the Faubourg, and that its use as a student centre was one of their preferred options for it. That summer it told the CSU it had to make a decision on whether or not to accept the Faubourg as the site for the student centre, leading to a unanimous rejection by council after hearing one last pitch from the administration.

“If we don’t make it a student centre, [the administration has] plans to buy it anyway,” then-CSU President Lex Gill told The Link in 2011.

The proposal would have seen the university foot the bill for just under half of the $54-million project—the union having autonomy over 30.4 per cent of the space, the university getting 28.3 per cent and the rest shared or rented.

You may see the initials “FB” on your schedule this semester, as the university regularly books classes in the building. Last year, the university also bought the fifth and sixth floors for $4.5 million, to fit office space that is being moved to accommodate expansion of the Webster Library.

Long-term plans include using the Faubourg along with the Grey Nuns building to centralize Concordia’s fine arts students. But things tend to work in cycles here at Concordia, so don’t be surprised if someone suggests yet again to put the student centre there.

—compiled with files from Giuseppe Valiante, Justin Giovannetti, Laura Beeston and Julian Ward