CAMPUS: SSMU ditches room fees

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Making good on a central campaign promise, Students’ Society executives announced last week that rooms in the Shatner Building can now be booked free of charge. Beginning last Friday, internal clubs, faculty associations, media, SSMU recognized groups and others are now able to use the rooms without the customary bill.

However, not all groups will have free access. Outside groups not approved by SSMU will still have to pay a fee to use the Shatner rooms.

SSMU President Aaron Donny-Clark, Vice-President Clubs and Services Floh Herra-Vega and VP Finance and Operations David Sunstrum all campaigned with one of their goals as the elimination of booking fees in the Shatner Building.

“We can’t ask McGill to get rid of room booking fees if we’re still doing,” Sunstrum said earlier in the year.

Herra-Vega agreed, adding, “McGill should be encouraging students to use their facilities and some clubs have trouble affording that. We think that booking should be accessible. The fees right now aren’t representative of the administrative effort that goes into booking rooms.”

Sunstrum estimated that SSMU had an income of $33,000 from internal room booking fees, $8,000 of which was from SSMU mini-courses. Another $2,500 was made from faculty bookings and $15,000 from external university administration.However, SSMU will not be going into debt or running a deficit due to the loss of booking income.

“We don’t have to rework the budget at all because we had such a large surplus last year and such a large projected surplus for this year,” said Sunstrum. “Now more club subsidies can go to students for this year.”

“It just seems silly to charge students for space when we’re giving out grants to pay for room bookings,” Herra-Vega said. It’s just a huge slush fund. The money is going out and coming right back to us in room booking fees,” Herra-Vega said.

“We’ve been trying to do this since we took office. It was just a matter of geting us all together,” said Sunstrum.

SSMU executives spent the summer coming up with the best system to implement to abolish fees, and agreed on Saturday to the current plan.

Clubs will now be able to book ten hours per week in the Shatner Building for free, excluding the Ballroom, which can be booked at a maximum of thirty hours per month.

“The Ballroom is different because groups need to book it for a longer chunk of time,” said Herra-Vega. “They have to do sound check and set up which takes a lot longer than just a meeting. Also, people don’t tend to book them for two meetings a week every week. It’s mostly special events.”

Any group found leasing their time in the rooms to a company or private party will lose booking privileges for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. This policy is designed to ensure that the rooms are being used for McGill clubs and students.

Another concern for the new policy is the amount of space in the building in proportion to the number of clubs.

“Everything is really full,” Herra-Vega said.

In order to book the larger rooms in Shatner: the kitchen, the ballroom or Lev Bukhman, a form must be filled out explaining the need for the room in order to ensure that all space is being used in the most effective manner.

“We want to be sure that our space is being used the right way,” Herra-Vega said. “We don’t want someone using the Ballroom for a wine and cheese when they could be having the meeting in a smaller room.”

Anyone that has already booked a room in the Shatner Building will not need to refile, they will simply not be sent a bill for their time in the room.