Pledge to Queen’s Centre made official

Vice-principal (Advancement) George Hood, AMS President Ethan Rabidoux, interim Dean of Student Affairs Janice Deakin and VP (University Affairs) Shiva Mayer signed an historic agreement for student contributions to the Queen’s Centre Dec. 1.
Vice-principal (Advancement) George Hood, AMS President Ethan Rabidoux, interim Dean of Student Affairs Janice Deakin and VP (University Affairs) Shiva Mayer signed an historic agreement for student contributions to the Queen’s Centre Dec. 1.
Photo courtesy of the Queen's Gazette

The $25.5 million deal has been sealed.

On Dec. 1, AMS President Ethan Rabidoux, AMS VP (University Affairs) Shiva Mayer, Vice-Principal (Advancement) George Hood and Dean of Student Affairs Janice Deakin signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the Queen’s Centre, the new student life centre set to break ground this May.

The contract is an agreement by undergraduate students, represented by the AMS, to contribute $25.5 million towards the construction of the Queen’s Centre.

“This agreement really does ensure that the Alma Mater Society has the teeth and the clout to defend student interests,” Rabidoux said.

Rabidoux said the significance of the agreement lies in the control it puts in the hands of the AMS. One section of the agreement makes a provision for an annual meeting between the AMS and the administration regarding the project, and another stipulates that the AMS authorize the fees for each year, contingent on the administration’s adherence to the “specific terms and conditions and general intent” set out in the agreement.

“[The agreement creates] carved-in-stone commitments and the tools to ensure that those commitments are followed through on for the future,” Rabidoux said. “The administration is held accountable.”

Rabidoux said the student contribution to the Queen’s Centre is the biggest contribution to a single project, per capita if not in absolute terms, by university students in Canadian history.

Hood agreed, adding that, after coming under fire for events during Homecoming, students can be recognized as generous and community-oriented through their contribution.

“$25 million is a ton of dough,” Hood said. “It’s great because I think the first person that’s going to be able to benefit from the Queen’s Centre when it’s done is currently in kindergarten, so here you have this selfless act by our students.” The student contribution, in the form of a mandatory student fee, was approved with 545 votes in favour and 212 against during the AMS Annual General Meeting (AGM) held last March.

Rabidoux said that voting on the question of the Queen’s Centre at the AGM, rather than via a referendum, was controversial.

“In the sense that everyone could go to it, you could say that [the AGM was equally democratic],” he said. “Personally, I would prefer a referendum on it, but an AGM is a valid option.”

According to the agreement, $1.5 million of the student contribution to the Queen’s Centre budget will come from existing “Campaign for Queen’s” donations, while the remaining $24 million will come from a mandatory student fee.

These student fees are outlined in the agreement as “$71 for full-time students and $35.50 for part-time students beginning in the 2005-06 school year and ending in the 2009-10 school year, to be replaced with a mandatory student fee of $141 for full-time students and $70.50 for part-time students beginning in the 2010-11 school year, which is to remain in effect until such time that the student fee has generated $24M.”

The lower fee amount was collected with the student fees this past September, before the MOU was signed.

Rabidoux said the fees were collected because at last year’s AGM, the majority of students present voted in favour of the fee, legitimizing its collection the following September. However, he said the money couldn’t be transferred to the administration until the agreement was signed.

“With the fee being passed, it gave the AMS the authority to collect it,” he said. “But it needed the MOU before [the AMS] could transfer it [to the administration].”

Andy Singh, former AMS student centre officer, took part in negotiations leading up to the signing of the MOU. He said he worked with the AMS executive with the intention of hammering out an agreement by September, but this proved impossible.

The MOU signed in December was the seventh version of the document, he said.

“I would have liked to see the MOU signed before they started collecting the fee,” Singh said. “[But] I’m happy with the MOU as it is.” Thomas Morrow, associate vice-principal (operations and facilities), said construction of the centre, which will consist of expanded athletic and student life facilities, is set to begin spring 2006 and continue until 2014.

He said that while construction is underway, student clubs and services will have to be moved temporarily and the provisions to be made for these clubs haven’t yet been finalized.

“The dean of student affairs is working with the AMS to work on those specifics,” he said. “We haven’t got to them yet because they’re in phase two and three, which is anywhere from three to five years down the road.” The Queen’s Centre project has been under discussion since 2002.

Hood said the scope of the project contributed to the extended period of time that had gone into the planning period.

“It’s complex, it’s large, and to do something right, sometimes it takes time in order to produce quality,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Hood said the need to facilitate learning and interaction outside the classroom is one motivation driving the Queen’s Centre.

“There has been this need for a facility that would allow the University to encourage that broadening of mind, body and spirit within one facility,” he said. “That’s where I think this is going to put us.”

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