BUSU March elections in full swing: zone expansion

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Voting for the three referenda run by Brock University Students’ Union is currently open for all Brock undergraduates. Students will take to the online polls and democratically decide on the future of the Brock University Student Radio Levy, the Brock Student Sexual Violence Support Centre, and the Zone fitness center expansion.

For the Zone question, students will be asked “Do you support the creation of a $17 per credit fee over a period of five (5) years (commencing in 2020) that would result in the expansion of the Zone fitness centre, after which the fee will drop to a $1.25 per credit to cover maintenance and operations as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding? The collection of the fee shall commence once the expansion is complete (expected completion is September 2020).”

BUSU is actively involved in the Zone referendum, with BUSU President Faisal Hejazi leading up  the ‘YES’ side of the campaign to increase the per-credit fees to fund Zone expansion. BUSU has even created a website, brockbusu.ca/getinthezone/, to attempt to persuade students to fund the proposal.

According to BUSU’s “Get in the Zone” campaign, the student governmental body found that after extensive surveying of student opinion, “the number one complaint/concern that was voiced by the student population was that the Zone is too small and students are resorting to paying for the student life fee (which gives all students access to the zone) as well as a gym membership elsewhere, which costs anywhere between $350.00-$550.00 for an 8 month cycle (e.g., Goodlife, Anytime Fitness, Fultons, LA Fitness etc.)”.

The reasoning behind the expansion, according to BUSU, is that the Zone was constructed at a time when the student population was dramatically lower than its current rate, at around 11,900 students in 2002. Since then, BUSU claims “our population has grown by over 60%, and at that time, students had to pay for a membership”.

In the January 17 meeting of Brock University Students’ Administrative Council, a motion was passed 18-0 by the Council to “draft a question and memorandum of understanding for the March election period for a potential Zone referendum.” In his statement to Council, Hejazi laid out the rationale behind expansion.

“Algoma has 1800 students and their gym is 10000 square feet, we have 18000 and ours is 4200 square feet,” Hejazi explained. “This will contribute to both physical and mental health.”

In fact, Brock has the smallest gym of university institutions in Ontario. McMaster University has a gym with 80,000 square feet of space, Queen’s University has 24,500 square feet, but Brock has only 4,300. Additionally, in terms of square feet per undergraduate, Brock is second-last in the province, at .29 square feet per undergrad.

Should students vote to pass the referenda, what will be added to the existing fitness facility? In the event the YES campaign is victorious, a ‘subcommittee’ will be formed from “students, architects, engineers, administrators, and staff from Athletics/Zone that will decide as a collective what kind of equipment/space to be included”. “Get in the Zone” suggests that potential additions may be a spin studio, dance studio(s), artificial turf, punching bags, and/or more squat racks, benches, and cardio machines. A target date of completion has been set as September 2020.

The campaign estimates that the project will cost approximately between $6 and $6.8 million over the course of the next five years, paid for by the proposed institution of a $17 per-credit fee for undergraduate students over five years beginning in 2020. This would add up to students paying a total of $85 a year, assuming they are taking a full-course load at Brock.

According to Hejazi, if the campaign wins the referendum, students will not begin to be charged for expansion immediately.

“The fee will not be implemented until students are actually able to utilize the new expanded Zone,” Hejazi noted. “The anticipated launch date is September of 2020; students won’t be charged the fee  until the project is complete.”

Hejazi also answered as to why it was appropriate for students voting now to decide on a fee future students will have to pay.

“BUSAC had two options at first, to implement the fee right away or to implement after the project was complete”, Hejazi explained. “We at BUSU and BUSAC felt it wasn’t the moral or ethical thing to do to make students pay right away, for something a lot of them wouldn’t be able to use. Also, for example, students in 2003 passed the transit referendum, which is something students now are paying for. Same goes with the health and dental plan. I think the idea is students making decisions today for the greater good, which will benefit future students.”

Some students have been concerned and wondered if the Zone will be closed for the duration of expansion.

“It was a very important point to make sure the Zone is available to students during construction. We made clear to the architects and engineers that [Zone being open] would be ideal”, Hejazi elaborated.

“We won’t have to close the Zone at all, it will stay open for the entirety of construction. When the Zone was first built, it was designed in a way to make it easy to expand upon at a later date.”

Hejazi noted that for a very brief period towards the end of construction—a two-to-four week period most likely in July or August 2020 —Zone will close as construction wraps up on the expansion. However, during that period, all of the exercise equipment in the Zone will be moved to a different location (most likely Ian Beddis gym) so that can students on campus can still workout.

“A big part of the reason I was elected as President was the Zone issue,” Hejazi said. “I think it was my strongest platform point. There was a lot  of work done to make it environmental sustainable and accessible, a lot of planning with architects and engineers, etc. It was a long and humbling process, and it shows how much work goes into something like this. This part [the voting] is the most difficult part of the process. But it’s a project I think most students believe in, and I think it will leave a great legacy for future students.”

Voting will continue from March 27 until March 29. Both campaigning and voting will end at 9:00 p.m. on March 29. Results will be announced shortly afterwards by BUSU.

For more information on BUSU’s campaign, please visit http://www.getinthezone.ca/

 

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