If you build it they will come. That seems to be the attitude of the CSU when it comes to the proposed student centre fee levy increase. That if this bloated, over-priced project is approved, everything that is wrong at Concordia will magically be fixed. We’re told this will instantly create campus culture and our Maclean’s ranking will improve.
But a building isn’t going to transform our commuter campus, it’s not going to change our reputation overnight. Instead, this white elephant will, at best, be a student office building with the occasional visit of an event that the Concordia administration doesn’t want in the Hall Building, and with students footing an enormous bill.
Do we really expect that Concordia students will forsake the 24-hour library to study in this new student centre? Walk there for a coffee rather than stop at the many cafÃ©s along the way? (While we may not know where the building will be, it will be at least some distance from the Hall building.) Will students get on the shuttle from Loyola and stop off at the student centre instead of going home? We doubt it.
There is no question that Concordia needs more student space, but this is not the answer. At $2 a credit (that’s $60 a year if you’re taking five classes per semester), the student centre building fund is already the largest fee levy Concordia students have ever paid. If this increase is approved and the fee rises to $4.50, a student taking five classes a semester will be paying $135 a year. And this fee won’t be even going away after the student centre is built. The purchasing and construction of the student centre is set to begin when the student union raises $10 million, but the proposed cost of the building is over $50 million. Even with the university putting up almost 40 per cent of the building’s cost, the CSU will be taking on long-term debt and this fee levy will stay around to pay for it. And let’s not forget maintenance and taxes.
Even with the high cost, it’s not clear how much students actually stand to gain from this new building. What is clear though, is that the university stands to gain a great deal. While students will gain space in the new building, they will have to give up space they currently enjoy. Places like the seventh floor of the Hall Building will become university space if this plan goes through. Students are being asked to pay $135 a year, for the foreseeable future, so the university can take over prime real estate in the Hall Building.
Essentially, students are being asked to buy the space they have already been given. If Concordia wants to turn students out of their buildings, they should foot the bill. We feel that the recent actions by the university which saw three clubs kicked out of their offices to make space for “classrooms” ? in a windowless space that only fits 10 people ? were pressure tactics designed to make students willing to accept the promise of more student space at any cost and to create fear among student groups so that they will crave the sense of security that would come from a written agreement, no matter how unfavourable.
We are sure the university would have preferred to have students pay for this through ancillary fees, where they wouldn’t have to deal with messy things like referendums, but the provincial government capped those a few years back.
We have heard nothing from the student union on this issue, they have failed their most basic job – fighting against unfair actions by the university.
Instead, we have seen the student union prove that there is no level too low for them to sink to on this issue, whether in stifling opposition or writing an intentionally unclear question. Let us not forget that, following their campaign to find out what students want out of a student centre, they returned with the exact same plan Concordia students have rejected twice before. In fact this plan, with its cost projected as over $50 million, is even more expensive than the proposal that students decisively rejected last year. And given these decisive rejections, over and over again, it seems that dirty tricks are the CSU’s only option if they want to drive this through. We are disgusted by this total betrayal of their duties.
If that is not enough reason to vote against this backdoor tuition hike, there’s more. Independent fee-levy groups, who have no ties to the CSU and instead deal with the university directly — such as the Concordian, the Link, CUTV, People’s Potato, Frigo Verte, the Co-op Bookstore, and CJLO — have no idea what will happen to their space if this levy goes through. Will they be forced to move into this new building? To university space or CSU space? These groups have not been notified or consulted.
What about the tiny amount of student space at the Loyola campus? Will the G-Lounge be shut down? What about the Hive?
We are also deeply concerned by the increasing involvement of developer Jonathan Wener in pushing this project forward. Given the level of secrecy surrounding any potential property deals, we find it disturbing that the majority owner and president of Canderel, a property ownership, management and development company with extensive activities downtown, in one case right across the street from the EV Building, has taken such an interest in seeing this fee levy go through.
It may be the case that Wener has noble intentions, an alumni using his experience to help students get a good deal. But because we do not know what, if anything, Wener stands to gain, the potential for a conflict of interest are staggering.
Once again, Concordia students should reject this bloated, overpriced project that stands to benefit everyone but students.