Feds gives admin ultimatum
Federation Hall negotiations remain unsettled prompting Feds to take action
If an agreement is not reached between the university and Feds by August 31, 2012, Feds will take a stance against the creation of the new student building. That approach was passed as a motion in the recent Feds Council meeting on July 8.
The Federation Hall lease expired April 30. There were months of prior negotiations aimed toward a new agreement, and at the townhall meeting in May, the university administration said that the agreement was close to being finalized.
Two months after the expiration of the lease, the mathematics society addressed their concerns regarding Fed Hall and passed a motion that cited the lawyer fees, the need for compensation, and the student event access as areas of concern.
The original agreement between the university and Feds was for a 20 year period beginning in 1984. After a fight broke out during a New Year’s Party hosted at Fed Hall, the clause which stated that the university could not unreasonably withhold the renewal of the lease was removed after the negotiations surrounding a new six year agreement were concluded.
The lease was renewed in 2010 for another two years and then, on March 25, 2011, the university sent the word to Feds that it would not be renewing the lease agreement. The main reasons were that the University needed the space and that the way Feds was running catered events for the Waterloo region community to subsidize student events was unacceptable.
Former director of business operations and current special advisor to the provost, Bud Walker, demonstrated the lack of student usage by taking out a calendar and which showed Fed Hall events over the 2010 year. Only 60 events that year were events pertaining to students, and so assuming that is one event a week, that would translate to “using a great big building for four or five hours per week.”
It is felt that by revisiting the purpose of Federation Hall, the university can assist in maximizing Fed Hall as a student space that could carry with it student demand for the space.
Walker also pointed out, Feds was using Fed Hall as a banquet hall that catered to public events so that in turn they would be able to subsidize events for students. Acknowledging that because the university is a public institution, it should not be competing with local institutions that are paying property taxes to maintain their buildings.
Previous Feds executives, such as Sarah Cook, were vocal about their displeasure at UW’s failure to communicate when it came down to the issue of hosting off-campus events at Federation Hall, especially when UW cited this as a major reason for refusing to sign a new leasing agreement.
Associate provost students, Chris Reid, was adamant this week about ensuring that Fed Hall would remain a student space, as opposed to Feds’ previous business model for Fed Hall as a facility that was also used for community weddings and local business functions.
The university is attempting to ascertain Fed Hall as a university building that functions for the benefit of students, faculty and staff instead of as a public service building, which is what the majority of Feds events were previously. Fed Hall would still be accessible to students as it was previously, for large social events, and orientation week.
The August 31 deadline was met with mixed reactions in the Sunday meeting from notable individuals such as Councillor Jesse McGinnis, who agreed with the spirit of the motion, but felt that “the inclusion of August 31 [would have] a detrimental effect to our ability to come to the best overall outcome for students.”
McGinnis’ reasoning was that if an emergency council meeting needed to be called before the deadline, most councilors would be preoccupied with exams, preparing for co-op terms, or would be on vacation and, therefore, unavailable.
When talking with Reid, he seemed confident that an agreement between the university and Feds was extremely close, claiming that a draft of an amended agreement had been handed to Feds, and from there the university was awaiting input from Feds, as of July 9.
He recognized the concerns of the student usage of Fed Hall by conceding that “the University has agreed to subsidize student events that were approved by Feds in the same way they approved them historically.”
Reid defends and maintains that the university acted in accordance with its pre-arranged agreements that bound the University and Feds and that those agreements lapsed, so from a contractual standpoint those involved in the document fulfilled their commitments, and that was back in 2004 when the initial agreement lapsed.
Reid seemed hopeful and positive, concluding that, “despite there being nothing signed on Fed Hall, the working relationship and communication has been really good, and I hope that’s a sign of good things to come.”
In a statement sent just before press time Feds president Andrew Noble stated that he had met with Reid on July 10 and that they now have a stronger understanding of what the university and the Federation of Students require for a written agreement.
“The agreement that was provided by Chris last week isn’t the same one that has been in the works for over a year.” said Noble.
“Throughout the past year, many things were agreed to in principle that we have yet to receive in writing. Both Chris Reid and myself are hopeful that a written agreement will be completed by late August. We are close to wrapping this up, and I look forward to delivering good news to students regarding this situation,” Noble said. “The Federation of Students will continue to work hard for compensation for Federation Hall, and for access to it as an affordable student event venue.”