Student life centre gains new management

AMS will gain full control of student buildings from administration as of May 2011

AMS Vice-President (Operations) Ben Hartley and Student Centre Officer Stephen Pariser piloted the project.
AMS Vice-President (Operations) Ben Hartley and Student Centre Officer Stephen Pariser piloted the project.

After 21 years of negotiation, the AMS is taking control of the Student Life Centre. By May 2010, they will administer the JDUC, the Grey House, MacGillivray-Brown Hall and the Queen’s Centre, minus the Athletics and Recreation Complex.

The decision to give complete managerial control to the AMS was made in an April 2009 framework agreement.

AMS Vice-President (Operations) Ben Hartley and Student Centre Officer Stephen Pariser are piloting the project.

Hartley, ArtSci ’10 said one of his first initiatives will be to fill the three empty retail spaces in the Queen’s Centre.

“What’s shifted is the onus. It used to be on the University to bring tenants in. Now it will be on us,” he said.

Although vendors have not yet been finalized, Hartley said that the AMS is pushing for a health and wellness theme. For a while, student interest has stated that a pharmacy or an electronics store would be most beneficial in a new campus retail space.

“These businesses have to reflect student values but they also need to be able to withstand the cycle. They should also be brands that can cater to the Kingston community over the summer,” Hartley said in reference to the four months that students aren’t at Queen’s over the summer.

Pariser, ArtSci ’11 said student control of the buildings could also lead to an expansion of other on-campus student facilities.

“We want things like a games room on campus. Currently there is no place but the Lazy Scholar for students to gather on campus[in this manner],” Pariser said.

Since 1989, the AMS has been attempting to gain control of the Student Life Centres. Hartley said that the project experienced steady growth through the next decade, but it wasn’t until 2005 when the project really came viable.

That year, the AMS Commitment Agreement promised the University $25.5 million in student fees to pay for the completion of the Queen’s Centre. Because of this commitment, the AMS was given greater control over building management, Hartley said.

“Along with the commitment from the AMS came the commitment of the administration that the AMS would take that role,” Hartley said, adding that the AMS has been trying to get the administration to commit to this management scheme for the past three years.

“The administration is now saying that the AMS is ready and able,” Hartley said. “It puts students in charge of how their student life space is shaped.”

Due to the change in management, there will also be a restructuring of Student Life Centre employees, Pariser said. Currently, the Centre is co-directed by the Student Centre Officer and the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. As of April 2010, Student Affairs will no longer be involved in the Centre’s management and their facilities manager and executive director positions will be dissolved. “The AMS will be hiring a new permanent staff member. [Their] main purpose will be for internal memory [due to high student turnover],” Pariser said.

The restructuring will also result in the creation of three new management positions in the AMS open to students. These students will work with the Student Life Centre officer and the permanent staff member, who will be the new facilities manager.

Because of a reduction in operating costs, the new management will actually save the Student Life Centre money, Paliser said. Hartley said that this is really important, because it means that student fees will not increase with the new management. Hartley said the retail spaces within the Student Life Centres make enough money to balance their budget so there’s no need for additional student fees.

“The revenue that will come onto AMS books is between $1.5 and $1.6 million. It’s a fairly sizable responsibility,” Hartley said.

Because it won’t be run as a service, this means that the Centre will only be closed on Dec. 25, Pariser said, making it much more student-focused, particularly to students who remain in Kingston over the holidays.

Pariser said this is just one way AMS governance can help students get the most out of the spaces.

“At the end of the day, the Student Life Centre isn’t here to make money but to serve students’ needs,” Pariser said.

While many other universities have somewhat similar arrangements with their student centres, Queen’s is in a unique position in that its Centre will be run by the students themselves.

“The AMS separates itself because we’re completely owned and operated by students. Other universities have a higher contingent of permanent staff members,” Hartley said, adding that even though the Student Centres will now be AMS-run, they will not be paid for exclusively by the AMS.

Pariser said AMS-exclusive space, like the AMS offices, are paid for fully by those who use the space, whereas public space, like the ceildhs in the JDUC, are paid for proportionately by the University, the AMS and the SGPS.

“There’s a cost associated with a public space. [For the Student Life Centre] it works out to the University paying 50 per cent, the AMS paying 40 per cent and the SGPS paying 10 per cent,” Pariser said.

Though the SGPS didn’t pay into the capital to build the Queen’s Centre, they’ve agreed to contribute to operating the building at a per capita rate, Hartley said.

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