KSU executives and concerned students debate the merits of operating a student-run canteen in the Wardroom (Photo: Sarah Kraus).

KSU executives and concerned students debate the merits of operating a student-run canteen in the Wardroom (Photo: Sarah Kraus).

King’s canteen referendum stirs up debate

Students concerned over $83,000 GIC, not $14 levy

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Executives of the King's Student Union faced a barrage of questions last night from concerned students over the canteen referendum.

The vote will determine whether the University of King's College students support the KSU's proposition to operate a student-run canteen. If the referendum passes, the KSU will add a $14 levy to student fees for the next three years. The student association will also cash in an $83,000 GIC to cover start-up costs and pay the university for renovations and the rights to the canteen space.

Approximately 40 students and one faculty member attended the moderated debate. The most hotly contested issue was whether or not a $75,000 contract with the university to use the canteen space and cover renovation costs is fair.

KSU President Gabe Hoogers initially proposed that that student union pay the university $5,000 for the rights to start-up a student run canteen. The university administration balked at his suggestion, and countered with the $75,000 proposal. 

KSU President Gabe Hoogers answers a question from the audience while Vice-President Omri Haiven awaits his turn to speak (Photo: Sarah Kraus).

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KSU President Gabe Hoogers answers a question from the audience while Vice-President Omri Haiven awaits his turn to speak (Photo: Sarah Kraus).

This money would be paid in installments to the university over the next three years. It would give the KSU the rights to operate the canteen for the duration of the five-year contract.

Should the canteen fail at any point during those five years, the university would return the $75,000 to the KSU.

Opposition

Upper-year students Niko Bell and Judy Booth represented the strongest opposition to the referendum. Booth urged the crowd to think long-term, saying "I want this canteen badly, and I want it sooner than later, but this isn't the right way to go about it." 

While both students fully support a student-run canteen, they argue the $75,000 fee being pushed by the administration is a rip-off.  

They believe that voting down the referendum would give the KSU more leverage to go back to the university and negotiate a lower price for using the space.

The KSU's Hoogers disagreed. "If the referendum fails, the negotiations are dead."

Support

Omri Haiven attempted to sway people toward supporting the canteen. As the KSU's external vice-president, he emphasized putting power into the students' hands. "Your money, your time, your canteen."

He said that the canteen could create an atmosphere that will attract more people to King's, and also help establish relationships with local businesses off campus. He added that other student-run initiatives at King's have been successful, including The Watch newspaper and the Wardroom campus bar.

Another KSU executive, Anna Bishop, noted that as other universities are becoming more privatized, King's would be bucking the trend by running the canteen as a co-op.

As the debate came to an end after an hour and a half of questioning, two students in the crowd stood up to say that arguments presented at the session had changed their mind. They were initially opposed to the idea, but decided by the end that they would vote in favour of the student-run canteen.

Canteen history

The canteen used to be operated by Sodexo, the university's main food provider. But this past fall, the KSU encouraged a boycott of the canteen. It argued that Sodexo was unresponsive to student concerns about ethical food sources, environmental sustainability and dietary issues.  

Two weeks later, the KSU, Sodexo and university administrators met to discuss the terms of the boycott and the future of the canteen. The meeting resulted in a letter from King's President Anne Leavitt green-lighting the KSU's proposal to take over the canteen.

If the referendum fails, the university will once again ask Sodexo to operate the canteen as part of its food services contract with the university.

The referendum passes with a majority if at least 315 students, representing 25 per cent of the student body, place a vote. 

Voting started outside the cafeteria this morning at 9 a.m. and will continue until 5 p.m. tonight, opening again tomorrow for the same hours.

As of 2 p.m. today, more than 200 ballots had been cast. King's has a student body of almost 1,200 students.

The outcome of the vote will be determined late Thursday evening.

 

 

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