Print Edition: March 13, 2013
The Student Union Building (SUB) is finally starting to move from the theoretical realm into the physical, bringing an onslaught of new questions. What will it look like? How will the space be divided?
Amidst this tangle of queries, the student union society (SUS) is facing an even more basic question: what will it be called?
Last year, under former president Carlos Vidal and former general manager Jhim Burwell, SUS entered discussion with UFV about pursuing third-party sponsorship.
Like the Envision Athletic Centre on campus, this would mean trading a lump sum of money for the naming rights to the building. This would link a corporation’s name to any mention of the SUB, and also include logo placement on internal marketing.
Current SUS administration became aware of this situation last November when executive director of university advancement and alumni engagement Madeline Hardin came to the office to talk about the process.
The SUS executive board, including interim president Shane Potter and general manager Meghan McDonald, decided to put the discussion on hold.
Vidal and UFV president Mark Evered signed a letter in the fall to approach a third-party company and request negotiation for naming rights, and Potter and McDonald can’t say for certain how far discussions have gone since.
“[Hardin] wanted to know if the Student Union, especially since we’d gone through so many changes, wanted to further continue that relationship,” McDonald says of the November meeting. “UFV’s been very supportive – they haven’t placed pressure on us to make this decision.”
The tentatively proposed deal would put offer naming rights for 10 years in exchange for $3 million. Half of that sum would go to SUS, and half would go to the university itself.
It might be hard to turn down $1.5 million, but Potter says the sum should be kept in perspective.
“I’ve got to reiterate the fact that the university students are putting in well over $10 million,” Potter stresses. “For me to unilaterally say yes to a fragment of that and allow a third-party company to name the building without [students’] consultation does not feel right to me.”
The idea of naming rights has been put on hold for the time being, but SUS intends to reopen the matter when the SUB is closer to completion. The executive board will look into holding town hall meetings, circulating more information among the students, and possibly holding a survey through myUFV to gauge how students feel about the matter. Depending on feedback it might go as far as a referendum.
For now, SUS is withholding the name of the company involved in preliminary discussion.
Consultation won’t involve a specific corporate name, but instead focus on what naming rights will include and how heavily the name will be featured in the building and related internal marketing.
Potter says this student-led process might start as early as next September, depending on the construction timeline.
“When the building is actually there, I think [students] will be able to grasp the importance of what the name means,” Potter says. “And if the students feel strongly about taking the money … then that’s fine. They can still make that choice. We haven’t closed the door yet.”
McDonald notes that students may choose to name the building after a community or UFV faculty member, creating a more cultural history.
“We recognize that the decision … in naming the building is very impactful to what the student union centre will represent for students,” she concludes.
While rumours name Envision as the potential third-party sponsor, SUS would neither confirm nor deny this claim.