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CSU rejects student centre proposal

by The Concordian October 4, 2011

Gonzo Nieto, the CSU’s vice-president Clubs & Space, recommended the union consult with students and refrain from engaging in further student centre discussions with the university until future notice. Photo by Navneet Pall.

The Concordia Student Union council of representatives unanimously rejected the university’s current proposal to convert the Faubourg Ste-Catherine into a student centre at a special council meeting held last Tuesday evening.
“This university has abandoned its students,” CSU president Lex Gill said in her opening statement to the 27 council members. She also admitted that the recent vote to decrease student representation on the Board of Governors influenced her and VP clubs and student space Gonzalo Nieto’s final recommendation that the CSU should not enter what would have been a 25-year, 51.4 million dollar agreement with Concordia University.
The passing of the six-part motion composed of recommendations made by Gill and Nieto incited cheers and applause from council, a reaction that Nieto later described as “validating.” Discussions between the current CSU executive and Concordia’s administration regarding the student centre proposal have been ongoing since June.
Other issues listed in the report included worries about the loss of current student space and a lack of clarity over which university policies regarding student behaviour would apply to the student centre, as well as several noted instances in which the tricky wording of legal documents held potential for the CSU to lose both money and management power of the Faubourg to the university.
“We feel that in some ways the process has been a little bit backwards,” said Nieto in an interview, referring to the fact that the CSU began collecting money from students for a student centre early in the new millennium via a $2 per credit fee levy without having any concrete plans regarding the centre itself.
In attendance for the first half of last week’s meeting were dean of students Andrew Woodall, VP services Roger Côté, director of facilities management Martine Lehoux and associate VP facilities management Peter Bolla. The four university representatives opened the meeting with a presentation featuring projected costs and artist renderings of the Faubourg student centre, followed by a question-and-answer session with CSU council members. The administration had been informed of Gill and Nieto’s recommendations ahead of time and did not remain for the deliberation period.
During the presentation, Côté described the Faubourg proposal as a partnership between the CSU and the university, a sentiment which was not echoed by the CSU executives.
“I think it would be foolish for anyone around this table to take seriously the idea that there is an equal sense of respect and partnership between the institution and between the 40-odd-thousand people who walk these halls,” said Gill.
In an interview, Côté called the result a “missed opportunity,” but said he respected the students’ decision.
While the university will wait until council mandates their executives to rejoin discussions with the student centre user committee, Côté said the university will move ahead with plans to purchase the Faubourg for academic purposes.
“We had put a student centre as a top priority in our view in terms of potential use for the facility, but with the CSU council’s decision last week, we will be pursuing our interest in that facility to meet other needs that the university has and those are in the academic domain, for academic purposes,” he said. Those needs include classrooms, labs, meeting rooms and offices.

The Student Centre Report in its entirety is available for download on the student union’s website (www.csu.qc.ca.)

The student centre project over time

– In 2003, Concordia undergrads vote to put in place a $1 per credit fee levy to raise funds for a student centre. The fee levy increases to $2 per credit after another referendum vote in 2005.
– Concordia University puts forward the Faubourg Ste-Catherine as a potential student centre to the CSU in 2006. The union turns down the offer.
– Students vote down two separate referendum questions attempting to further raise the fee levy by $2.50 per credit in March of 2010 and again in November. That same month, it is revealed that the Faubourg will be the location of the student centre.
– Shortly after the current CSU executives took office in June of 2011, Concordia informs them that a decision on the Faubourg must be made by September.
– On Sept. 27, 2011 the CSU council votes during a special meeting to reject the Faubourg student centre proposal.

Compiled by Alyssa Tremblay, assistant news editor

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