What would you consider the most challenging thing you’ve had to face this year?
Definitely the space issue. It’s hard for us to let [students] know exactly what our relationship with the Administration is in terms of space. Obviously, we advocate for student’s rights. That’s our job. That’s our passion. But at the same time, it’s been tricky to try to consult students on all issues when not many students are interested, to be honest with you. So it’s been tough to rally support from the students, enough support to carry weight with our arguments when we present them to the administration.
What’s the current status of student space at Concordia?
I’m actually waiting for a meeting [with the administration] some time this week. We left off before the break having given the university our wish list of what we’d like our Comprehensive Space Agreement to be. We still have the mezzanine. [The administration is] very strong on their position and they have never changed their mind about turning [the mezzanine] into a lounge. Being an involved student, and knowing my clubs the way I know them, and knowing the value that the mezzanine holds, I wouldn’t like to see it being turned into a lounge. That’s still our position as the CSU.
There are screens set up in the mezzanine now. Is that the first example of the administration taking action to transform the space?
That’s part of their plan. I think the screens can stay there if they want them there. The rest of it has to be talked about. The deadline they gave us [to transform the mezzanine] is the end of January, which is next week. That’s why we’re having a meeting about it this week. Hopefully we can change their minds. If not, at least buy more time until we have a replacement. I don’t think there will be a replacement for the mezzanine until we have a student centre.
What’s the timeline for this downtown student centre?
The second phase that we were trying to complete this year has definitely been advancing. Even though there’s no building to show for it, that wasn’t our intention this year . . . I think the students will be ready to see the student centre in five years . . . to be realistic and to get the amount of money necessary to build the building. I’m saying five years, but who knows? We might have good results at the end of this year that can change everything.
What’s the status with the Hive?
We’ve been having meetings with Facilities Planning, which is a department that takes on any renovation project. The Hive touches upon various issues. Firstly, it’s not in writing that it’s our space. We have to have that space in writing. I don’t think it’s wise to invest a lot of student money in a space that can be taken away in a couple of years. We’re almost ready to hire a contractor to go into the space and make this a reality. We’re definitely working on it, but I don’t want to leave students with debt and a lot of money wasted.
What is the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Hive, and where is it?
It’s basically a proposal for companies that would be interested in coming on campus. The companies would apply and we would evaluate their offer and choose what’s best for Concordia. We’re working on [the RFP] right now. It has to go through the university because it’s their space. There are lots of consultation stages that have to go on. We want a change from Chartwalls. We want variety. We have to find the best company to bring on campus that will suit student needs and student budgets, but at the same time will bring enough money to the project. But [the RFP is] taking more time than we thought. My lesson as an executive at the CSU is that everything takes longer than you think. A year is definitely not long enough to accomplish everything.
So what do you think you can accomplish with the Hive before your term is up?
I’m going with what the professionals are telling me. Unless anything changes, construction should start this year.
In your opinion, how realistic is the university’s pledge of $300,000 to put into the Hive?
There have been talks about dedicating $300,000. That was during our negotiation stage of student space issues. We’ll see if they hold to their word. I think it’s very realistic right now. But I want to hold onto that comment until I meet with them this week.
Do you think the proposed changes to the fee levy system will ensure accountability?
I think this will raise student awareness in that they’ll be conscious of the money that goes into the system. Accountability will definitely be raised once there’s a formal committee of councilors who will be watching these groups. It will be good to centralize it and have a CSU body in charge of overseeing [student groups’] activities. They want students to be consulted every three years. It makes sense with the turnover that we have.
Do you think that by enforcing this election process every three years, students will be less likely to participate and get involved?
No, I don’t think it would decrease enthusiasm. I actually think that it would benefit the student groups. I understand that having to campaign is a hassle. It’s time, it’s effort, it’s money. but at the same time, I’m sure the groups will be recruiting lots of students. It will probably raise more support than you think.
Will campaigning be detrimental to the services these student groups provide?
Hopefully not. The CSU’s position will always be to support any services the students have already supported. I’m not saying it will be an easy thing to campaign, but it’s every three years, so groups can plan for it in advance. I don’t think shutting down is an option.
If there’s one issue that you would say has to be followed-up on by next year’s executive, what would it be?
The Hive would be a project that if I were to stay longer I would definitely work on. That and the student centre; those are my two big passions.
Meet your governing student representatives. Who are they and what are they doing on that 7th floor? Weekly series on student union executives’ portfolios. VP Finance Saleena Hussein up next.