Student Centre plans build slowly

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By Steve Petrick

As RyeSAC begins another year of planning to build a student centre, groundbreaking remains a distant dream.

RyeSAC President Erin George cannot guarantee students paying for the building right now will ever see it. The only consolation, she says, is that those who paid for the Ryerson Athletic Centre’s construction 10 years ago never saw it finished, either.

“People in fourth or fifth year might now catch the student centre,” George said. “But they have been able to enjoy other projects that [past] students have contributed to.”

Students voted to pay $60 in annual fees to build a student centre in March 1998. The new charge didn’t increase annual fees because students had recently finished paying $60 a year for the RAC.

The student campus centre committee (SCCC) begins meeting Sept. 23 and will continue hammering out governance and funding details for a second year before finding an architect and determining the building’s size.

On the agenda for the next few months is getting a hearing with Toronto city council. The SCCC will ask the city to help finance construction of the centre. If the city helps the university raise $12 million, a 67,000 square-foot centre could be built.

But finalizing those details can be tedious. Just ask students at McMaster University.

They voted to build a student centre in 1987-88 school year, but construction won’t begin until March 2000.

The 40,000 square-foot, $28-million building is set to open in September 2001.

“Democratic processes take a long time,” said Lori Diamond, business manager of McMaster’s student union.

It took years of debating at McMaster before the university and the students decided how the centre could be governed. The two groups failed to get financial assistance from the government so it took more than a decade of student payments to accumulate enough funds.

It also took three tries for McMaster to agree on a site for the centre.

But Ryerson has an advantage over McMaster because the location has already been selected, says former RyeSAC president David Steele, who sat on the student centre committee last year.

But he said a quicker process cannot be guaranteed.

“There’s a lot of things that could pop up once we start to deal with the site itself,” Steele said. “We might dig down and discover we have a massive environmental clean-up to do. Those things can happen. We can’t guarantee anything.”

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