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The Admin Wolfe is Back

August 2, 2011

From: Joseph Hickey
To: GSAED Council Members
Date: August 2, 2011
Subject: Re: Important: Grad House Committee Emergency meeting

Dear GSAED Council Members,

Tonight I attended the Grad House Committee’s emergency meeting to change the building design for the new GSAED Grad House.

The goal of the meeting was to select a new building layout that would include office space for members of the GSAED executive and employees of GSAED.  Offices had not previously been included in the design because the plan was for the offices to be placed in the University Centre (UCU) rather than in the new Grad House, which was intended to serve as needed space for the general grad student population.

Seamus Wolfe, the recently hired Grad House Co-Project Manager and former President and VP University Affairs of the SFUO, made a presentation in which he explained the financial situation and then laid out two new options for the Grad House.

Seamus let us know that the GSAED has built up a $600,000 equity in the UCU, which will be used as a down payment on the Grad House mortgage.  The equity comes from the GSAED members’ payments into the UCU, via the Jock Turcot levy (currently at $90,000/year), dating back to the late 1960’s when the UCU was constructed.  Seamus informed us that the University administration charges $75.00 per year for each square foot of office space in the UCU, which for the GSAED’s offices would total around $5,500 per year.

Seamus then stated that because the GSAED has decided to invest its UCU equity into the Grad House, we have “relinquished our right” to space in the UCU.  This is where my stomach began to turn.  Seamus further elaborated on the difficulty of obtaining space in the UCU due to the fact that every office is currently occupied, and that the GSAED would have to kick out a current tenant such as the SFUO’s Pride Centre (where tonight’s meeting was taking place) or the student-run convenience store The Pivik.

I kid you not.  This is actually the reasoning of a three-year executive member of one of our student associations – that for grad students to have space in the UCU means that they would have to evict other (undergraduate) students.  Never mind the many third party shops and ill-placed administration offices that should be given the boot outta there.  And anyway, since we’re using what equity we’ve scraped back from our decades of payment into the UCU to pay into the Grad House, graduate STUDENTS have therefore given up their RIGHT to space for their student work in the UNIVERSITY CENTRE.

Have some principle!  A right is a right.  Students have the right to adequate space on campus.  We are the stakeholders.  We are the purpose of the university.  We never relinquish our right to space on campus.  By using the GSAED’s equity in the UCU as a down payment we have simply made an economic decision that leaves us without that one economic point of leverage.

But space negotiation is political.  We should be actively and ardently taking back land in the UCU and challenging the administration on its illegitimate occupation of our rightful space.  We must require our political representatives and Project Leaders to have defiant attitudes to uphold the basic rights of students, not to participate in and legitimize the University’s campaigns to convince us that it’s all about economics and there’s nothing we can do.  Take that Right to Space right into physical space and sit on it!

Seamus was an Allan Rock mini-me at this presentation.  It was frightening.  I don’t believe that former GSAED Student Life Commissioner Guillaume Lemieux’s energetic work to sell us the Grad House Project was any better for students.  I voted No for the Grad House Project, and I gave my reasons at Council last year.  This is a multi-million dollar madness that pushes students away from taking the positive action that would correct our unhealthy habit of getting pushed around in all aspects of our lives on campus.

Sadly, I’ve been reminded of this little ditty I made back in 2009, when Seamus was the President of the SFUO.  Too bad the last line still rings true: link

Sincerely,

Joseph Hickey
GSAED Senate representative, Sciences section

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