SSMU Announces Year-Long Building Closure Via Facebook Event

Photo: Seng Chiat Haw
This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

The William Shatner University Centre will be closed as of March 2018 due to the replacement of the building’s heating and ventilation system. It is estimated to reopen in Winter 2019.

On September 29, a Facebook event entitled “Building Closure Information Session” was posted on Facebook. For many students, the event, hosted by the SSMU, was the first they had heard of the closure.

Comments in the event ranged from concerns about how the SSMU broke the news of the University Center’s closure, to the impacts of the move on services such as the daycare, to “I should have gone to Concordia.”

Citing transparency and accessibility, a number of students took issue with the lack of an official press release. Others complained that the information session occurs during class hours, and that the SSMU has yet to post anything to answer “the simple questions” in advance of the session.

Other students referenced the “hilarity” of finding out that the SSMU is moving for a year via a Facebook event, and mentioned the “inappropriate” and “irresponsible” nature of the announcement. One student noted that he had heard rumours of the building’s closure for months, and was disappointed that the SSMU “chose to keep it secret and announce it in a really half-assed way with short notice.” To this point, the SSMU responded that it “understands and [encourages students] to keep pressing this issue.”

Phoebe Warren, a U4 Political Science and History student, stated that she is “not so much angry about the closing down of the building as renovations are necessary for the safety of students and staff, but rather the manner in which this whole fiasco has been dealt with.” She has “questions surrounding future cohesiveness of student life, as well as concerns surrounding adequate space for organizations that are being displaced and proper accessibility accommodations.”

The University Centre’s closure will have wide ranging implications for its members and tenants. In addition to the shutdown of Gerts, La Prep, and Liquid Nutrition, student services housed in the building will be moved as well. These include the Legal Information Clinic, the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), McGill Student Emergency Response Team (M-SERT), Midnight Kitchen, The Black Students’ Network, Queer McGill, and many others.

Clubs such as Players’ Theatre, which requires a unique space to operate, will also be forced to relocate during the closure.

When asked why the information regarding the University Centre’s closure was kept from students until recently, VP Student Life Jemark Earle stated: “McGill University owns the University Centre and is responsible for all building maintenance including the HVAC project. We did not not [sic] have verifiable information about the project approval, scope and duration until recently.”

Earle acknowledged the burden this will place on students, conceding that “We (the SSMU Executive) realize that this puts our membership in a difficult situation and we have been doing the best we can to ensure that we release information as it becomes available to us in a timely manner. As a result, we released all the information available to us as it became available and will continue to do so.”

Though the SSMU has committed to recording the information session so as to make it more accessible to its membership, and states that it will “be continuously updating everyone as the closure approaches. [The Facebook event] is the first of many notifications,” McGill students seem displeased both by the circumstances and by the way in which they were informed of them.

An earlier version of this article suggested that the daycare would be closed as a result of the building closure. This article has been updated to reflect that the daycare will remain open throughout the University Centre’s closure.

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