About five years ago UTMSU first proposed an expansion to the Student Centre. Since that plan fizzled out, there has been a lot of talk about an expansion, but very little… expansion.
It is clear that students want an improved building. No one doubts that. The problem, as usual, lies in the compromise. More specifically, measuring students’ needs and demands against the cost—both what the university is prepared to contribute and the effects, through a levy, on the next few generations of students.
An expanded Student Centre would solve a number of issues related to student groups and student use in general. One of the most common complaints—the lack of office space—seems like a fair place to start. Simply having all student groups under one roof would, without a doubt, foster a much more cohesive and active student community. Moreover, it would be nice just to have a little extra space for hanging out.
So when I heard that UTMSU presented their expansion proposal to the administration last month, I was pleased. After years of delays and false starts, they were actually doing something. There was a physical document in the administration’s hands, and (this is the important part) they read it. From there, though, things started to go a bit off course.
As you can find out about in the Student Centre expansion article on the cover, the plan UTMSU submitted called for a space of over 130,000 square feet, making it only slightly smaller than the newly constructed Instructional Centre. Such a building would come at a cost of well over $100 million.
Take from this what you will. The university administration was obviously not having any of it, which is why UTMSU came back and held last week’s commission meeting to get students’ opinion on how to scale the project down. It’s clear that much of the plan was excessive to say the least (a hair salon? Really?), but hey—at least they tried.
What concerns me is how this might affect future negotiations with the university. There’s no way UTMSU went into their meeting thinking that their proposal was reasonable. It just wasn’t serious. And the administration had every reason to treat it as such.
But the next time our union goes back to the bargaining table, will the administration feel the same way? Will they feel like they are working with sincere people who are serious about making real change, or a group of daydreaming students who lack the capacity to deal with others on a realistic level? I certainly hope it’s not the latter, for my sake—and for the Student Centre’s.
Michael Di Leo