The seventh floor of the Hall building houses two contrasting spaces that sit right next to each other, and both fulfill similar yet different purposes.
The main downtown cafeteria is serviced by Chartwell’s all-you-can-eat buffet and now adorns huge ads which are part of the university’s new advertising deal. The caf area is sealed off from the rest of the student floor by glass partitions, as if to keep the university’s space separate from the open student space that dominates the seventh floor. You have to pay to sit there, which is why it’s mostly frequented by first-year res kids.
That other space on the seventh floor of the Hall building has fulfilled many uses over the last few years. Its open space replete with black leather couches makes it a place for studying, eating and chilling. You wait for People’s Potato vegan grub, watch television on your laptop or nap. You can hold a bake sale fundraiser or talk on the free phones.
Specifically, the area overlooking de Maisonneuve Boulevard has been rented out for a myriad of student causes. A display of Stingers sports pictures fills one wall, while CUTV’s Vox Populi camera sits in another. Many events have taken place on that big seventh floor space: food fairs, orientation hangover breakfasts, panel discussions.
Both spaces are for students to hang out and eat in, and are maintained by the university. But while the first is sealed off, the other is, relatively-speaking, open and free.
And so perhaps the most important role the black-leather-couch space fulfills is to make it easier for average students to engage with our representative body, the Concordia Student Union, like last week’s Information General Meeting.
The IGM was the first meeting of its kind that we can remember in recent years. The CSU threw open its doors to students, basically saying: “come on down, and tell us what you want.” It turned into a Hyde Park of sorts, where anyone could wait for a turn at the mic to share their thoughts.
To be sure, many of the people in attendance were the usual suspects: student politicians, media and campus activists. The CSU should have sent email reminders to the student body. The CSU mailer is not used nearly as much as it could be, or at least not as effectively as it should be. Parties, guest speakers and all-you-can-eat (but not drink) events are well advertised because the school is plastered in posters for them. Where was the IGM wallpaper in the last few weeks?
But it seemed right to have everyone gathered in one spot, hashing out hot topics and drafting motions that will be presented to the CSU council for representatives to vote on. (It’s too bad there did not appear to be more CSU councillors present at this meeting. What, you can only spare one night a month to show up and do your job?)
The topics were wide-ranging, from water bottle policies to spending. Ideas were thrown around with what to do with the $6.9 million burning a hole in the CSU’s student centre fund. (Student bursaries? Sprucing up Loyola? We doubt that we’ll be building a student centre, so spend, spend, spend.)
The CSU has tried to throw open the doors before: president Heather Lucas’ monthly town hall meetings barely registered a ripple of attention. Last year, then-president Amine Dabchy wooed students to come shoot the breeze at “Coffee with Amine” casual events.
Who knows why these events failed to attract the same muster this event did. Maybe the formal structure of the IGM helped, with graduate students Roddy Doucet and Erik Chevrier running the show as co-chairs of sorts, and a CSU employee taking minutes. Maybe it’s the outcry over the university administration’s blatant lack of regard for students’ money or concerns, with the Pepsi contract and Woodsworth fiascoes. Now is the time to have discussion, to let our student politicians know where we stand, and how they should be consequently acting.
After foisting a fall campaign to increase the amount of money you pay to a fund for a student centre you likely won’t see, and failing in that regard, the CSU has apparently temporarily backed down from this ambitious project. They seem to be just focusing on working on what students want. Well, there’s nothing like getting down to business with a few months left in term.
We liked this IGM. And we hope we have more of them, and that more students come out to take advantage of the supposed open ears of their elected officials.