The UTM Students’ Union presented their 80-page proposal for an expanded Student Centre at a commission meeting after university administration rejected the propositions as unreasonable.
The document proposes a significant number of additions, including four large presentation rooms, a theatre, an expanded Blind Duck Pub and food court, a multi-faith prayer space, a barber shop, dance rooms, an arcade, a convenience store, a health and pharmacy centre, and larger offices for clubs, societies, levy groups and UTMSU itself. The blueprint describes a space of over 130,000 square feet—only slightly smaller than the Instructional Centre, which cost $70 million.
Over the last few years, the union has purported to be negotiating a deal with the university to renovate the Student Centre. The claim, which is often boasted during elections, has never included any concrete groundwork until now. According to UTMSU, the university estimates that every square foot costs about $1,000 after consultation, construction, and other necessities. Thus, the union’s proposed expansion would cost an estimated $130 million.
The university countered with a smaller project that would cost $6 million and include a smaller renovation of the Student Centre. They offered to finance up to $2 million. Since the university is almost at borrowing capacity, it would be unlikely that the project could be mortgaged. The responsibility to cover the remaining balance would fall on students and any potential donors willing to contribute to the construction.
The interests of various groups need to be taken into consideration when considering the space made available by the smaller renovation. Clubs, academic societies, and levy groups like The Medium and ECSpeRT need larger offices and students need greater study and leisure space.
The Student Centre was constructed in 1999 to accommodate 6,000 undergraduates at the UTM campus. The capital project cost $6 million and students were asked to cover $1 million. Through a referendum, students accepted the proposal and agreed to pay a $25 levy from tuition.
Over a decade later, 12,000 undergraduates share the building. Enrolment is expected to increase to 15,000 over the next few years.
The commission held off on the vote to approve or disapprove the proposal. UTMSU president Gilbert Cassar intends to hold a town hall with the administration for students to become informed about the finances of the project, make recommendations, and ask questions.