Student centre plans back in motion

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By Emily Bowers 

A half-century old dream to build a Ryerson student centre is one step closer to reality now that RyeSAC and the university’s administration have put money squabbles aside.

Both groups announced last Tuesday that construction of a $10-million, 4,140-square-metre building—to house campus groups, clubs and RyeSAC services—is scheduled to begin construction at 55 Gould St. in spring 2001.

The proposal still has to be approved by Ryerson’s board of governors—at their Sept. 25 meeting—before a committee can be formed to choose and architect and construction company.

The renewed negotiations come only five months after talks between RyeSAC and the university appeared hopeless. The two sides couldn’t agree on whether $700,000 raised through a student levy belonged to Ryerson or its student union.

The debate has been settled because most of the money was put towards paying off the Ryerson Athletic Centre’s mortgage.

There is roughly $27,000 left over from the levy, which is to be combined with nearly $70,000 from a continuing educations student fee and almost $500,000 from the Ryerson Centre, a group formed nearly 50 years ago with the sole purpose of building a student centre.

“We have enough to start,” said v.p. administration and student affairs Linda Grayson, one of the leaders of the student centre committee made up of representatives from RyeSAC, the university’s administration and other stakeholders. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

The mood is much different than in April, when then RyeSAC president Erin George accused of holding on to money raised through the $60 student levy. The fee had been collected since 1975 to pay off the RAC mortgage by June 1999.

In 1998, with the RAC almost paid off, RyeSAC held a referendum asking students if they wanted to continue the $60 fee, putting it toward building a student centre instead.

The students agreed, but it took nearly a year longer than expected to complete the RAC’s mortgage payments, so administration took the money and paid off the RAC’s mortgage rather than starting to save for a student centre.

George was upset because didn’t tell students about the decision, and threatened a legal battle if the money wasn’t given back.

An outside auditor hired over the summer to assess the situation found no wrongdoing, Grayson said, and the money collected from now on will be controlled by RyeSAC and the university.

“From my perspective there was never any disagreement,” Grayson said, adding Cory Wright, RyeSAC’s president, has been a good person to negotiate with.

“We have to be responsible to the students who agree to pay this,” Wright said. “We couldn’t get past that [money] point to actually work with what we did have.”

What they do have isn’t enough to complete construction, Wright said, so the group will eventually need to borrow money, most likely in the form of a 25-year mortgage to be paid off with the $60 student levy.

The building will house all RyeSAC services, including the Food Room, RyePride, the Women’s Centre, Copyrite and the Working Student’ Centre, as well as CKLN, The Eyeopener, a travel agency, convenience store and other course unions and clubs scattered throughout Jorgenson Hall.

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