Price of planned building was to be paid by future students
Student representatives of clubs and communities across campus gathered in Robertson Hall on Monday for their academic government’s second meeting this year. Discussion ranged from plans to deliver free food to students studying in the library to the announcement that the physics society had won a bid to host a Canada-wide undergraduate physics conference.
While many issues were discussed, none brought up more debate than plans to begin construction on a new building that would charge students at Carleton University an additional $40 of tuition per semester during its construction. The new building would begin construction in four years, and its price would be in addition to a three per cent annual tuition increase.
The spokesperson for the planned “Student Union Building” was David Andrews, who spoke at length on the reasons to support its construction during the meeting. Andrews is the vice-president of finance for the university’s student association, which is pushing to gain public support for the building.
“This new building will help us attract more students and help make us more competitive with other universities,” says Andrews, promising 24-hour study space and dedicated office space for clubs. “Carleton is unique not just in its growing student numbers, but also in the sense that we don’t have Student Union Building, unlike many other universities.”
Andrews assured the crowd that the bill would not just be coming out of the undergrad pockets in four years. “In order to remain competitive, the university agreed to front the cost of the first $20 million,” he says, and that the other half of the building will be paid for by the student association. The caveat is that the university will use an eighth of the Student Union Building to set up food stands.
“One of the big misconceptions I hear so far is people asking ‘if we vote yes, are we going to start paying for it tomorrow?’ The answer is no.”
“But we want to make it non-profit,” he says. “That allows us to provide the food and drink at a much lower cost to students.” Andrews’ speech comes about one week before the Student Union Building referendum, which will decide whether or not plans will continue on the construction of the building.
“One of the big misconceptions I hear so far is people asking ‘if we vote yes, are we going to start paying for it tomorrow?’ The answer is no,” says Andrews. “No student will have to pay for any part of this building whatsoever until it’s constructed and complete until 2020.”
Andrews concluded his speech with a plea to think about the future of Carleton University. “Whenever you’re a part of an organization, a team, or a club,” says Andrews, “your goal should be to leave something better than that from which you came.”
Salah Al-Basha is CUSA’s volunteer of the month and delivered this interview while advocating for the “Yes” campaign.
Charissa Feres is the psychology student representative and vice-president of a campus organization that fights against mental health issues. Feres was the first to bring up her concerns with Andrews’ speech, claiming that the $40 price tag would increase each year.
“I’m sorry,” replies Andrews, “that’s simply incorrect. It will always be $40 per semester. The increase is simply adjusted for inflation.”
The agenda continued, but not before Feres raised some questions for the academic student government running the meeting. A video had been shared on their Facebook page that Feres claimed supported the Student Union Building.
Chloe Miller, newly elected president of the student academic government, expressed her and her organization’s neutrality on the subject. “We only shared the video to inform the public about the issue,” says Miller, reasserting that the student academic government is neither for nor against its construction. “We only want people to be informed.”
Feres is unconvinced. As the same organization that created the “informative” video is also in charge of promoting the Student Union Building, Feres believes there is a conflict of interest. Neutral parties should not be sharing partisan posts, she says.
When asked if he knows whether or not the majority of Carleton University students are for or against the Student Union Building, Andrews says no. “Unfortunately, I don’t have an abacus. There has not been a poll. There has been a lot of volume on both ends, but I think that’s a good thing. Engagement is always important whether people or advocating for or against it.”
“People shouldn’t be dazzled by the promise study space and dance rooms.”
The issue is “pretty wordy and confusing,” says communications representative Alyson Duffy. “But we could always use more study space—a lot of my groups get double-booked. I would want someone four years ago to have invested in me today.”
“I don’t personally like that argument,” says Feres in response to that prevailing theme of Andrews’ speech. According to Feres, we are not necessarily “investing” in Carleton’s future. “Maybe students in four years aren’t going to care about the extra space on campus,” she says.
“What’s important,” says Feres, “is that students are informed and grasp the full implications of what is right now being offered. People shouldn’t be dazzled by the promise of study space and dance rooms.”
What everyone who spoke on Student Union Building could agree on is that above all else, students need to be informed.
The student union building referendum would result in a resounding “No” to CUSA’s proposed idea. Sophie Hayes was in charge of the “No” campaign and gave this interview after the results had been posted.