On Feb. 4, the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the McGill administration, reducing the area of space in the Centennial Centre– the central student hub on campus– and increasing the student fee paid into the space. The renewed MoA will remain valid until 2020.
According to the renewed MoA, the area of space in Centennial Centre, granted to the MCSS for revenue generating activities, will be reduced from 3784 to 3043 square feet. Additionally, from 2016-2020, the MCSS will now have to pay $15.00/sq ft for the space, compared to the previous $13.00/sq ft with the rent being subjected to a $0.50 increase every year.
Originally, the McGill administration proposed a hike to $16.00/sq ft with a one-dollar increase every following year. Negotiations began early in 2015, however, a consensus was not reached until last month. According to MCSS Vice-President (VP) Finance Nihal Mandanna C.P., MCSS could not accept the initial proposed increase.
“The negotiations dragged on so long [because] we were not going to agree with the one-dollar increase [per year],” Mandanna said. “We can’t justify that increase towards students [.…] The jump from $13 to $15 is a roughly 15 per cent increase. We didn’t feel [such a raise] on top of the one-dollar increase every single year […] is reasonable.”
Mandanna recalled that the administration’s justification for the proposed increase was that the rent for student spaces on Macdonald campus should be comparable to that of the Downtown campus. However, Mandanna raised the point that the populations of the two campuses differ greatly in size.
“[The Macdonald Campus] has a total undergraduate population of around 1,400 students, versus almost 30,000 in Downtown [campus],” Mandanna said.
The two parties eventually settled on a $0.50 annual increase.
“We managed to negotiate it down to only [a] 50 cents increase every year,” Mandanna recalled. “The good side to that is in five year’s time, we will be paying $17.50/sq ft, compared to the [originally proposed] $20.00/sq ft”
According to Mandanna, despite the rent hike, MCSS is not planning to increase its student fees for the time being.
“We are in pretty good financial standing,” he said. “So we don’t see the necessity to increase our student fees yet.”
He also pledged not to make The Ceilidh, the campus bar at Centennial Centre, a major source of profit for MCSS to cover its rent and expenses.
“I personally don’t necessarily agree with making money off alcohol, especially off your students,” he explained. “If we’re going to provide a bar, we want to provide a service—a space to hang out, a space to have a drink with friends or profs [….] At Mac, The Ceilidh is one of our only student spaces. As such, it is an essential part of Mac culture.”
According to President of MCGSS Nicolas Chatel-Launay, services provided by MCSS, such as The Ceilidh, form an integral part of graduate student life and welfare on Macdonald campus.
“The bar running well is a good thing for us [graduate students] as well,” Chatel-Launay said. “A lot of the bar staff are graduate students, and it is a tradition that the bar manager being a graduate student, usually a PhD. Also, it’s the social place here [.…] The bar is also open to staff and the department. When we have departmental seminars or parties, it’s in there, so everyone benefits.”
According to Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Financial Officer Behrang Sharif, PGSS agreed to pay an annual fee to MCSS for members of its subsidiary organization on Macdonald Campus, the Macdonald Campus Graduate Students’ Society (MCGSS), to be able to use MCSS services.
“We have recently negotiated and signed a [Memorandum of Agreement] with MCSS to pay $11 per MCGSS student to help fund services and clubs at Macdonald campus,” Sharif said. “This will be increased according to inflation every year.”