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SAITSA proposes new students’ building

(Photo by Andy Maxwell Mawji)

(Photo by Andy Maxwell Mawji)

Referendum vote set for Nov. 4 to 6, offering students choice to release funds for new building

The future of SAIT’s campus is in the hands of students.

Since 2009, over a third of students’ fees were allocated to a building fund, and a referendum on Nov. 4 to 6 will ask students permission to release funds for a new students’ building on the main campus.

SAIT Students’ Association (SAITSA) Board of Directors voted unanimously on Oct. 5 for a student referendum, which is a major step towards the development and construction of a student-owned building.

Brigitte Matheson, SAITSA president, said a new building could be “the living room of the
institution” and a hub for campus life.

“SAIT has such an academic focus, but there’s so much more to the student experience,” said Matheson, noting student clubs, residence, and the social aspects of being a student.

The referendum, which will be conducted through email, requires at least five per cent of students who pay SAITSA fees to vote and two-thirds of voters to agree to release the funds.

If approved, SAITSA will finalize the project’s timeline and costs and use the funds for the building’s design and construction.

Although space for new construction project is limited at SAIT, the building will likely be constructed on the south side of campus, in between the Campus Centre, Cohos Commons Field, and the LRT tracks, and it will have a comparable footprint to the Johnson-Cobbe Energy Centre.

Matheson said the primary goals of a new building are to provide student-centric spaces, club meeting rooms, and a central location for all of the SAITSA offices (currently they are spread between a variety of locations in the Campus Centre).

The building will be funded by SAITSA’s building fund, which was started in 2009 and currently contains over $6.4 million and is expected to reach $7.9 million at the end of the current fiscal year. SAITSA’s current annual fee for full-time students is $289, and $120 per student goes toward the building fund.

The project works well for SAIT’s major campus plan, said Boris Dragicevic, associate vice president of facilities management.

In his 13 years at SAIT, Dragicevic has overseen the development of a variety of specialized academic buildings, and as the student population grows, “it starts to make sense for [SAITSA’s] own identity” to have a central location for students.

Located near the LRT line, the new building has the potential to be an icon for the SAIT campus, but the site comes with some challenges including limited space and proximity to the train tracks and hill.

“The realization is we are an urban campus,” said Dragicevic, “so any development has inherent challenges.”

A student-owned building will be new for the SAIT campus, and details regarding the relationship between SAIT and SAITSA are still in development.

Dragicevic said SAIT will likely own the land, and utilities could potentially be shared with other SAIT buildings or SAITSA could even bring in their own utilities.

Although plans for the design, construction, and ongoing maintenance once the building is complete are unsure, Dragicevic noted they have a “good working relationship” with SAITSA, and intend to look at other post-secondary institutions for examples of relationships between schools and students’ associations.

At the University of Calgary, the operating agreement the students’ union and the university regarding MacEwan Hall ends this December, and the two parties have been in ongoing discussions regarding the future ownership of the building.

Matheson said preliminary talks between SAIT and the students’ association have been positive, and everything will be done to avoid issues in the future.

“We’re really lucky to have a great relationship with the institution—we are all here for the same cause,” said Matheson.

According to Matheson, now is the time to design and construct a new building, considering the local economic conditions.

The referendum is the first step towards a new building, and Matheson is asking students to vote in the referendum.

“It’s exciting times—our generation gets to leave our mark on the institution.”

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