The CSA believes in campaigning and advocating around student space issues.
We do so through our involvement on the University Centre Board and other avenues. We also recognize that space is something that should be covered by the tuition fees students pay, and as such, is first and foremost the responsibility of the University. We are committed to working with administration and students to ensure that the University fulfills these responsibilities. For more information about the space your students’ union provides, and our initiatives around student space, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University Centre
Former CSA executive member Marty Williams has said, “The University Centre is like a tree. It was planted by students a long time ago and it didn’t bear leaf until 1974. But when it did, it was an altogether different sort of tree than the planters had envisioned. One with limited student shade, and a lot of Administration lawn chairs in prime locations.” How is it that a building, originally conceived and funded by students, now allocates more space to the University’s administrative offices than to students?
In 1966 Union Council, the student union at the time, put forward a referendum question asking students whether they would pay $10 a semester, the equivalent of $70 today, for the construction of a Student Union Building (SUB). The SUB was to include lounges, theatres, meeting and dance space, as well as extensive offices for student organizations and clubs. The question specified that the funds would only be collected if student control of the building was guaranteed. The students voted in favour of contributing money to their own building.
In 1968 the University approached Union Council with a proposal to change the building from a SUB to a University Centre that would encompass, along with all the student space, some University-run student services. They promised that the administration would be housed in its own separate building. If students supported this proposal then the provincial government would provide the funds necessary to complete the project. The students voted to include these University services in their building.
In 1969 the provincial government reneged on their end of the bargain and planning was halted. At the same time, in an effort to bankrupt the student union, the University decided to stop collecting Union Council’s fee. Students voluntarily came and directly paid their fee to the student union for a semester, but after that, with no source of income, the student union folded.
In 1973 the Central Student Association (CSA) was formed out of the ashes of Union Council. This new student union took up the issue of the University Centre as its first priority. In the time between Union Council and the CSA, the University had decided to forge ahead unilaterally with the construction of the University Centre (using the student money). This building was not student-controlled, housed the University administration, and granted only a small space to the students.
After a year of fighting internally with the University, Tim Hawkins, then CSA President, filed a lawsuit on behalf of all students between 1966 and 1974 in the amount of $1.14 million dollars (the amount collected to that point for the construction of the SUB). After a drawn-out settlement process, the CSA and the University settled out of court, giving students token input through ten seats on the University Centre board (which is required to report to the University administration).
That brings us to the present. Students still pay around $13 every semester for the operation and upkeep of this building. Because the administration controls the majority its space, students do not have the lounges, meeting rooms, study space and offices that the building was supposed to provide. In fact, only one half of one floor in the University Centre is dedicated to student organizations. Overall, Guelph has only 75% of the student study space that an institution our size should have according to government regulations.
The CSA will continue this year to evaluate current space and to advocate for more student space in the UC and throughout campus. If you are interested in getting involved in student space campaigns and initiatives e-mail the Finances and Operations Commissioner at email@example.com.