Monday, February 20, 2017
Last updated: 1 year ago

Arts Undergrad Society asks students to pay for new building

The current AUS space, the Meekison Arts Student Space. Photo Andrew Hood/The Ubyssey

The current AUS space, the Meekison Arts Student Space. Photo Andrew Hood/The Ubyssey

The Faculty of Science has one. The Faculty of Engineering has one. And now the Faculty of Arts wants one too — that is, if students are willing to pay for it.

The Science Undergrad Society has had their own stand-alone student space for years, and the Engineering Undergrad Society has just gained approval to build a new, shiny student centre to replace their ramshackle “Cheeze Factory.” Not to be outdone, the Arts Undergrad Society (AUS) is hoping to get their own freestanding building too. But they’ll have to more than double their student fee to do it, and students will have to approve forking out the extra cash.

AUS President Harsev Oshan thinks the current arts student centre, a one-level glassed-in area in the Buchanan complex known as the Meekinson Arts Student Space, doesn’t meet the needs of the more than 12,000 students in the faculty.

He and the AUS council want to build a multi-storey structure close to Buchanan, with study areas, rooms for social events, club rooms and facilities for commuter students. Oshan said it will cost over $5 million to build the project, according to an estimate from AMS architect Michael Kingsmill.

Next week, arts students will vote on whether to start paying the AUS a student fee to fund the building. The fee would be $15 per student per year for the first five years, and then increase to $25 per student after that. This would be on top of the current AUS fee, which is $13. Based on the expectation that students will pitch in about $2.7 million, the fee could be around for more than 11 years.

The timeline for the project hasn’t been set in stone yet, but Oshan said he hopes the building will be ready within five years, so students paying the higher $25 fee will get to use the space.

The AUS hasn’t yet confirmed an architect or a firm budget for the project. But they’re expecting to raise roughly half of the project’s budget through student fees, and the rest through alumni donations.

Oshan said Campus and Community Planning has given the AUS two options for the location of the potential student centre: one beside Brock Hall, where a temporary building for the former department of women’s and gender studies once stood, and another between Buchanan Tower and Buchanan E block. In either place, Oshan said, the centre would be limited to under 10,000 square feet by UBC Campus and Community Planning’s edicts on faculty student spaces.

Some preliminary project designs have been commissioned through Kingsmill, but Oshan said they’re just ideas at this point; they still need to solicit bids for the final design of the centre and consult with students to find out what they want in it.

Oshan said he hopes to provide club space for all of the 18 departmental clubs in the new building. Currently only a few, like the International Relations Student Association, have rooms in the SUB, though some have been offered space in the new SUB as well. Oshan also wants to get a UBC Food Services café in the building.

The project only has preliminary approval from UBC as of yet, but Oshan hopes students will vote in favour of the fee. “Should the referendum pass, that would add a lot of weight behind our negotiations, saying students actually want this and are willing to pay for it,” Oshan said.

The Engineering Undergraduate Society just finished up their negotiations with the university on building their student centre — a protracted process that started in 2006. The engineers first mounted a referendum to collect a student fee to fund their building in 2006, but that vote failed, and it took a second referendum in 2008 before students agreed to the fee.

A sticking point in the engineers’ negotiations was who would have control over what events happened in the building. UBC wanted the dean of the faculty to have the final say, while the engineers wanted power to rest with a committee of students, alumni and faculty, since student fees and alumni donations would finance the structure.

The Engineering Undergraduate Society and UBC reached a compromise in December 2012: the dean does have to approve events, but students have the ability to appeal. Society president Ian Campbell said he anticipates that the AUS will get a similar agreement for the arts student space, and Oshan agreed this is the most likely situation.

But as far as getting students to approve the fee for the new building, Campbell is skeptical about the AUS’s effort to promote the referendum. “They’re not doing enough to convince their students that it’s worth it,” said Campbell. “They’re rushing into it a little bit.”

An AUS promotional video in favour of approving the fee criticizes the current Meekison Arts Student Space, but doesn’t say much as far as what the new centre will offer students.

Voting in the student space fee referendum will take place from Feb. 11 to 15.

  • Ian Campbell

    Quick clarification in paragraph 2: The Board 2 approval we got today (which includes the governance agreement) doesn’t give the ESC the go-ahead for construction quite yet – we need to continue fundraising in order to gain Board 3 (which allows construction to begin).

  • Harsev Oshan

    Correction for the voting period. It starts on the 8th and ends on the 15th of February.

  • Kaveh Sarhangpour

    Just as a point of clarification, the video is not the official informational video for the AUS that will be released shortly which will touch on what the building will prospectively offer. The video that is currently out is a video more so aimed at engaging a broader audience who will then hopefully be interested enough to go and check the information. Obviously the humor is exaggerated, and is a bit critical, but it’s meant to get Arts students talking about a space that they were possibly not concerned with, or knowledgeable about previously. At the end of the day, it was a comical piece meant to open a discussion, not a prospectus.

  • Sam R

    From what I can see, there’s no budget for the building (that’s been posted on their website at least) and the referendum question says they’ll charge us ‘until the building is paid off.’ So It’s pretty much like writing them a blank cheque for the building.

    If arts students were so useless in developing MASS (according to the AUS at least), it /may/ not be the best thing to give them an unlimited amount of money for this.

    • Viet Vu

      Actually, the total cost of the project is presented in this section :) :

      What will this cost you?

      The total cost of the project is 5.5 million. Alumni
      Affairs would aim to raise a little over half of these funds, and the
      remaining money would be taken out as a loan and repaid by an increase
      in student fees. The increase in fees would be $15 a year for the first 5
      years of the project, and thereafter the fee would increase to $25 a
      year. The logic is that current students will not get to experience the
      student centre, and therefore will be charged less than future students
      who will see the project realized (the proposed completion date of the
      building is September 2018).