Student clubs and services previously housed within the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) building encountered logistical burdens in their search for alternative work spaces after the building closed on March 17. The closure was the the first step in a long-term schedule of renovations and repairs which are planned to continue into Winter 2019. While the move has left some student groups scrambling, both the clubs and SSMU have made efforts to maintain a cohesive community.
Nineteen clubs, which normally occupy the SSMU building, have relocated to other workspaces in buildings on Robert-Bourassa Boulevard and Peel Street. The Plate Club, a service that lends out dishware for student groups holding events, faced countless difficulties securing a new office before eventually relocating to 3471 Peel Street.
“At first, we weren’t given a new space because [SSMU General Manager] Ryan [Hughes] didn’t know what we do with our office space,” Plate Club Internal Coordinator Doug Lebo wrote in a message to The McGill Tribune. “We told him we didn’t need to move our dishwasher and his very next email essentially indicated that we didn’t have a space because we ‘would need dishwashing capacity.’”
However, after pushing SSMU for accomodation, Lebo has been pleased with the new arrangements.
“Overall […] the physical move was really easy,” Lebo wrote. “[SSMU Building Director] Wallace [Sealy] was kind enough to install a realtor box to keep our keys in since we now operate with locked cabinets in a public space.”
Some displaced groups such as Midnight Kitchen (MK), a non-profit collective known for serving vegan lunches on campus for donations, perform services which need specialized equipment to continue operating. MK employee Wade Walker found the relocation a struggle given the group’s need for a kitchen.
“At one point, SSMU thought they found us a space but it fell through because it wasn’t a commercial kitchen,” Walker said. “The only kitchen we could find is actually in Saint-Henri, so now we aren’t doing lunch servings.”
He also lamented that the relocation planning lacked cohesiveness.
“I really wish [SSMU had] had a complete plan in place before they came to us about the building closure,” Walker said. “They’ve been trying to communicate effectively, but there aren’t enough people working on the project, so they miss and forget things we’ve told them.”
Players’ Theatre, a student theatre company formerly housed in SSMU, was evicted from their office without warning on Feb. 12. Its new office is now on Peel Street and SSMU has given them funding to rent out MainLine Theatre on boulevard Saint Laurent for their productions. Events Coordinator Cheyenne Cranston said that, while the move has been challenging, it has reminded her of the strength of the campus community.
“It has been truly amazing to see the student body be so willing to help us when we need it, and support us through the move!” Cranston wrote in an email to the Tribune.
Jemark Earle, SSMU Vice President Student Life, hoped to prioritize the community of clubs. SSMU often didn’t have solutions to the challenges faced in organizing such a massive undertaking, leaving the clubs in limbo.
“We tried to make sure that even if we didn’t have much information, the clubs and services within the SSMU building knew everything we knew as soon as possible” Earle said. “The building [on Peel Street] was offered to us originally in August. We had been meeting with groups saying we could house them there, we had set down floor plans by the end of September, and then the administration said, ‘never mind this is off the table.’”
The building is scheduled to reopen in stages: Gerts will likely be back by the start of the fall semester, the first and second floors by the middle of October, and the rest of the building by December.