Western's squished club space is getting a much-needed upgrade — it's moving to the University Students' Council's unused council chambers and almost quadrupling in size.
The temporary move will address some of Western's University's clubs' immediate concerns. After being moved to University Community Centre room 269A last January, many clubs expressed unhappiness with the windowless, cramped room. In particular, the Student Organizations Union, a clubs advocacy group, formed partly out of frustration with the delayed then inadequate club space.
"A bigger club space is something we’ve needed at Western," said Ali Jilani, president of one of the USC's largest clubs, the Muslim Students' Association. "I felt like what they gave us at the end of last year was a band-aid solution to a much bigger problem."
The relocation from 269A to the USC's former council chambers will boost the club space from 594 sq. ft. to 2089 sq. ft. The council chambers will also be renovated before it's repurposed. Mac McIntosh, USC student programs officer, said the council chambers is losing its tiered, theatre-style seating and will be transformed into an open-concept space with tables and seating. Before this, council chambers has sat empty since USC council meetings were moved to the UCC's community room in 2016 to allow for round-table-style debate.
All together, the renovation will cost about $2,000. The USC was able to save money by using their own labour, USC productions, to level out the room and by reusing the carpet. The renovations could be completed as soon as next week and definitely before students return in September.
"The goal here was to give the clubs a larger space and a space that they deserve," McIntosh said. "We’ll consult with them throughout the fall about what they want to see long term."
The council chambers will be the club space for at least the next year. Several USC executives and staff, including McIntosh, are touring Ontario universities to see how other student associations support their club systems. Additionally, after the USC hosts club consultations in September and October, the organization will conduct a full space-utilization report of the UCC building. McIntosh said that by December or January the USC should have a detailed plan for the club space moving forward.
Jilani said the MSA would like to see a space that's versatile; a space that could hold a speaker, a show or even a dinner. He said multiple spaces might also be something to explore and that he's happy the USC is open to discussing a long-term solution.
McIntosh noted that although the relationship between the USC and clubs has been strained in the last year or two, he's focused on rebuilding the relationship.
"We have 10,000 students in our club system, and it can’t be overstated how much value they add to the student experience. We need to start looking at it that way," he said.