When students head to the virtual polls for their Executive Council in February, there will be an extra question on the ballot that will impact the future of our Students’ Association. That question is a $5 million referendum that will bring enhanced services and new office space for NAITSA. Negotiations have been progressing this year for a new space for NAITSA and, with a Senate resolution in December, all that is left is for the students to make the final decision.
What does this referendum mean? NAITSA Advocacy Director Jason Roth explains the result of a successful referendum.
“NAITSA will donate $5 million to NAIT over six years. NAITSA receives the space currently occupied by the NAIT Executive and Management teams, as well as naming rights to certain spaces on campus.”
This agreement would coincide with a significant re-organization of campus as pro-grams shift to fill the new Centre for Applied Technologies and NAIT administrative departments find new homes on campus.
The largest physical benefit for NAITSA is the new space the association would receive under this agreement. Currently, services are offered across three office spaces in the E hallway, with limited storage space. Many NAITSA staff share offices in cramped spaces, with some offices housing three or more staff. Under the proposed agreement, NAITSA would move into NAIT’s current executive offices near the South Lobby.
“The space we would receive would be approximately three times the space currently occupied by NAITSA,” says Roth. This would include enhanced space for the Campus Clubs Centre, Food Centre and the Nugget and more space is expected to bring a better working environment for NAITSA staff.
However, it doesn’t come without a downside.
The tower lounge, a favourite study and event space for students, will revert back to NAIT as the tower building is repurposed. This takes away one of the major student spaces utilized by clubs and individuals.
With the fate of so many campus spaces unsure in the face of the CAT transition, there has been no definitive look at exactly how much space students will have access to in the future.
However, what can be defined are the potential benefits to students. The increased space will allow NAITSA to both centralize its services in a new location and improve the way those services are offered. The association is confident that these changes will only benefit students.
“This will allow NAITSA to expand and enhance its services. Therefore, it will positively affect how students access NAITSA’s services,” says Roth.
Although there have been no consultations or public discussions yet on service expansion, the NAITSA website mentions potential new services such as “peer support, support to our LBGTQ community and other services in consultation with NAIT students.”
Most important, this proposed agreement will not have an impact on students’ wallets. NAITSA’s plan to spread the donation over six years means the money can be pulled from NAITSA’s Building Fund with any remaining balance coming from operating reserves. NAITSA has no intention of raising student fees to support this proposal, meaning enhanced services to students without the added cost. Why a referendum, then? NAITSA’s bylaws require a vote from students on any donations or gifts over $50,000 that NAITSA makes to an external body, even if there will be no change to student fees.
The proposed agreement doesn’t only affect the association’s space on campus, as there are provisions for enhancing NAIT’s new Learning and Teaching Commons and bring SMART ID card technology to NAIT. There have been discussions on campus in regards to a style of ONE-card service that other institutions offer to students, though little information is currently available.
Finally, the proposal also provides for the creation of a $2.45 million Student Enhancement Fund, which will be set aside to improve student experience on campus. Jointly operated by NAITSA and NAIT, potential uses for the funds would include projects and study space improvements. Although NAITSA has historically set aside funds for this purpose, the new fund would bring a greater degree of co-operation between administration and the Students’ Association.
For more information about the referendum, students can ask at the NAITSA office or visit naitsa.ca/referendum. Voting will take place online from Feb. 5 until 4 p.m. on Feb. 11.
Nicolas Brown, Issues Editor