At the TCSA’s annual general meeting, a bylaw was adopted stating that the union will henceforth be “prohibited” from removing the $95.01 student centre levy, altering its purpose in any way, or diminishing its value until the building is paid off in 25 to 30 years.
Leaving aside questions about this bylaw’s legitimacy, given that it was passed by only seven TCSA members (roughly 0.1 percent of the union’s membership) all of whom are currently sitting as directors, there was also confusion about its scope and permanence.
During the meeting it was stated that the union’s membership would not be able to rescind this particular bylaw due to the fact that it makes the levy “mandatory.” However, Braden Freer later clarified in an interview with Arthur this is not the case: any bylaw (this one included) can be struck by a vote of the membership at a general meeting.
If the membership were to rescind this bylaw at a future meeting of the membership were to happen then the students could indeed vote to rescind the levy, an act which he warned would not only likely bankrupt the union, but also send the university over its debt ceiling.
However, the confusion surrounding this bylaw is symbolic of the broader opacity and outright messiness that has mired this student centre proposal for more than a year now.
Since the TCSA ran its referendum campaign in 2012 the student body has heard precious few details about the plan. Even the brief update given at this AGM raised a whole new list of questions. I thought it would be worthwhile to go over what we still don’t know:
• To date we still don’t know what the governance structure of the building will be. Freer stated that the building will be governed by a board comprising of both student and administrative representation, however, the original referendum question stipulated clearly that the centre must be “student owned, student operated.” What mechanisms will be in place to make sure the administration doesn’t make a power play some time in the future?
• There are still no details on what sort of land-lease agreement would be in place between Trent and the TCSA. Freer noted that it would “similar” to the one negotiated with London Property Company for the private residence, but clarified that the details of such an agreement remain have yet to be discussed.
• President Leo Groarke did state that the administration will contribute $4 million to the project to build a second large lecture hall on campus. However, we don’t know where this $4 million is going to come from. To date, the university has been unsuccessful in petitioning various levels of government for funding. Furthermore, at last year’s TCSA general meeting Richard Morgan, Trent’s director of External Relations, stated unequivocally that alumni have shown little interest in donating to a new student centre. There has been nothing publicly released to suggest this situation has changed.
• There are still outstanding questions regarding the actual composition of the student centre. A report dated August 18, 2014, shows that the TCSA executive was exploring the idea of adding housing space as recently as a month ago. At the AGM Freer said that the union no longer views housing as a viable option, but the idea of housing was never before been discussed with the membership. This begs the basic question: what exactly is this student centre going to be?
• We also don’t know why the union has never looked at more affordable alternatives in downtown Peterborough. This question was raised at the AGM to which Freer replied that the referendum question stipulated that the student centre had to be built on campus. This is actually not the case, however, as the question made no mention of location. It simply asked: “Do you support a levy … to construct a new student owned, student operated, student centre, to be collected only after architectural renderings are completed?”
These are just several of the many important questions that have yet to be answered by TCSA leadership. Another crucial one could be: does the union have any evidence that, after a year and a half, the student body is still committed to funding this project?
One of the low points of AGM occurred when one TCSA director suggested that the bylaw making the student centre levy irrevocable should be passed simply because that’s what adult organizations do.
Actually, what adult organizations do is make sure that they have all their ducks in a row before pitching multi-million dollar capital projects to their memberships.
It’s been a year and a half and we know scarcely more than we did the day after the referendum.