USC wants control of UCC

Dolan: we need to see action

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

On Feb. 5, University Students’ Council President Fab Dolan sent a letter to Western President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport requesting operational control of the University Community Centre

“What really stuck out for us was the fact that students have paid 95 per cent of the costs of this building [through student fees, not tuition] since it was constructed, and yet the university administration still controls the use of the building,” Dolan said.

The last agreement between the university and the USC, created in 1995, expired in 2005. The USC was preparing for the negotiations for the new agreement.

Dolan said he expects discussion to begin in March in regularly scheduled meetings, but Dolan sent the letter in advance so administration could prepare.

Gitta Kulczycki, vice-president of resources and operations at Western, said administration received the letter but hasn’t formally responded.

“We are surprised by the request,” Kulcycki said. “There are many occupants in the UCC aside from the USC and its related businesses activities.

“We also reached an agreement with the USC last year that grants them significant additional space in the UCC once the recreation centre is completed.”

“When looking at our long-term goals like corporate sustainability and giving back to the students... whenever we run into problems and obstacles centered around this building, the root cause is always the fact that we don’t have control and that we pay occupancy,” Dolan said.

Dolan said students have paid for the mortgage, rent, construction and renovation costs the past 35 years yet the university retained control of what they paid for.

Dolan added the university’s control over the space prevents the USC from doing things like offering lower-priced food vendors or cheaper new textbooks.

“This would offer us a lot of freedoms. We’d be in a situation where we could do anything we wanted, like bringing in new vendors to creating more student lounge space.”

Dolan clarified having control doesn’t mean the USC would kick services like The Bookstore or Student Health Services out of the building.

“Nothing might change with respect to the building and we could collect rent from the tenants that we as students have been giving.”

Dolan said occupancy fees are nearly $1 million a year.

“It’s ambiguous, but it’s supposed to pay for heating, lighting " the costs of running the building, but that’s what tuition is for.

“What will dictate how far we take this is the university’s response and its actions. What we hope for are respectful discussions and dialogue where students can benefit and the university can save face, but ultimately we have to do what’s right for students.

“We’re not expecting a formal proposal at this point... but we need to see some action.”

While Dolan’s term as president ends soon, he said he has an advantage of being experienced, knowing the issues, and knowing the people on the other side of the table. All three presidential candidates have told him they’re in favour of pursuing the issue, he added.

“I think if both the USC and Western act respectfully and efficiently, a lot could be done in my term [though] I think it will take the majority of the next president’s energy toward university affairs.”

“We enjoy a very good relationship with the USC and meet with them regularly,” Kulczycki said. “Certainly this will be a matter of dialogue with them in the future.”

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