Print Edition: January 11, 2012
Early last month the Student Union Society (SUS) held a referendum on whether the student body would approve a $10 million mortgage in order to greenlight the Student Union Building (SUB). The results have been tallied: it’s a resounding “yes” vote for the SUS’s proposed SUB. They now have a mandate to move forward in providing a building specifically designed for students. A feature of having a mortgage will stipulate that the building will partially be owned by the SUS, and not leased.
Through the myUFV website, 950 students took part in the referendum vote. The “yes” count claimed 599 of the ballots cast, leaving the “no” tally at 351. Roughly, 63 per cent of students who participated voted in favour of obtaining a mortgage to make up for the shortfall in funds that the SUS faced. According to Jhim Burwell, the SUS communications administrator, “the percentage of people voting in favor of us having the mortgage is actually a stronger mandate than what we got for the original referendum for the SUB building. So it looks like, to me anyways, that there’s greater support out there for the Student Union Building now that they’ve sort of seen what we’re planning, seen what it’s going to look like.”
In the two weeks prior to the vote, there were familiar SUS representatives in the halls discussing the referendum and the SUB building with students. This was when the campaign was in full swing, and SUS was eager to get pertinent information to students. Burwell commented, “The canvassing effort that we did for the referendum was based entirely on getting people informed so that they could make an informed vote. We had people out on the campus doing street teams, shaking hands, handing out handbills, and always always always directing students to do the research online that we provided”.
Some students also provided a counter voice and wary opinion of the SUB. One factor being discussed was that the accumulated interest on the mortgage, at an estimated 4.25 per cent fixed for five years, would be considerable and that the building could be built for less and potentially with a shorter repayment period than 25 years. Carlos Vidal, SUS President answered that claim, “I think our building is a very fair cost for our school. If you look at the costs, not to say that our school is exactly the same as other schools, but if you were to look and compare with other schools, we’re being fairly frugal with our money and frugal on our costs of the building, when you look at another school who’s paying $100 million dollars on their building.”
Today, with the referendum now past, there are actually two aspects that must be ironed out before the first shovel can be picked up. The SUS must consider the specifics with the university and finalize mortgage details with the financier.
On the university front, according to Burwell, “the university and the student union are working out an actual lease based on the fact that the land that the building is going to be built on is crown land that’s given to the university itself, and we’re going to own a building on land that we can’t own, things like that. But all that’s going to be worked out in the lease agreement.”
But the big agreement will be the one with the mortgage company. The contract will most likely be with Envision, since it’s the one institution, among those vetted, that can provide for the building’s needs. As negotiations have been underway, Vidal noted “This referendum needed to be approved before we could take the next steps in providing some information to the financial institution we’re using for the mortgage. Then we’re going to have another meeting with them to finalize the mortgage and sign it off. But we’re fairly close to that.”
The target date for starting the construction has remained that same, said Vidal, “We’re still shooting for that goal to break ground between April and June depending on how quick things go. And have a celebration to break ground, and then start the construction and get everybody excited about the building.” With an expected opening in Fall 2013, this will leave a period of a year and a half for the building to be completed.
What will probably be of most interest to students, however, is what this building will actually resemble. Originally, it covered a greater area than the empty, and waiting, lot over by the current AfterMath location. But to preserve the trees and green area, it was shortened with a third floor being added.
With the SUB, Vidal envisions “people hanging out in there, people walking around. This is going to be a place with a lot of energy.” He also described what would be inside. “Right upstairs you’re going to have CIVL who’s going to have lots of cool events and music,” he said. “And right next door you’re going to have AfterMath who’s going to be open all the time and we’re going to have places for underage, and of-age, students.” There will also be lounge rooms for playing video games, playing pool, and just hanging out. A lot of other student centric bodies will be moving in as well, such as The Cascade and Student Life. Potentially there will be a few shops, such as a used bookstore, or even having some health and dental services. And there will be a multipurpose room for more frequent indoor events. Vidal pointed out that there will be “a really cool glass part of AfterMath where people can look through a window right down into the multipurpose room now. And if there is a concert or event going on there, people could… look into and see the event and see things going on.”
Finally, Vidal spoke on the referendum process as a whole, “I think a lot of students were taking the initiative to get answers and get question from us directly about this, which was great because we get a chance to interact with the students and let them know why we’re doing things, what we’re trying to do in their best interest. So when students have questions, when they want to know the reason behind this, we really try to be open and available. We don’t have anything to hide; we really try to be open and tell students how things are and give them the freedom to base on the real information… their decision.”