No new food services facility in sight for campus

As Laurier Brantford continues to grow in both campus size and student body, there is still one thing that is missing: food services. Besides Williams Fresh Café, there is no place on campus where students can stop for a quick meal, and as of now, there are no concrete plans to change that.

“We last had an active project in 2008,” says WLUSU General Manager, Michael McMahon.

“At that time, however, there was no specified location for that outlet and the Students’ Union specifically wasn’t able to make a financial commitment beyond what it had at Williams Fresh Cafe.”

Despite this revelation, students are still paying for a Brantford Food Services Facility – a $15 charge that has appeared on all students’ tuition bills each semester. So, if there are no plans, where is this money going?

“Right now, that money that is accumulating sits in a restricted reserve account that can’t be spent on anything except the intended dining facility,” says McMahon.

Calculating some basic numbers (student body population per year multiplied by $30 [2 semesters x $15] from Fall 2009), The Sputnik estimates there to be over $200,000 sitting in this reserve account. This type of advanced billing is a common practice for many universities, and it has been used at Laurier Brantford in the past to help pay for the construction of the Students’ Union building on the corner of George and Darling.

“It doesn’t seem to be logical for those who are paying, however, if we don’t save and then spend, we likely won’t get the opportunity to spend,” says McMahon.

McMahon also understands that it is hard for students to get behind this type of payment. “It is very difficult in today’s economy to sell… ‘Hey, you’re making an investment to campus!’ to a student.”

But without it, the campus would be facing even more of an uphill battle in developing and building these facilities.

The school did come close to receiving a food services facility though; a dining hall was included in the original plans for the Brantford Research and Academic Centre buildings.

“The Students’ Union had a fully designed dining hall ready to go as part of the original plans as part of [BRAC],” says McMahon.

“That building plan was shelved because it was way over what the university had planned to spend on the entire facility.”

With a variety of different groups involved in the construction of these buildings, Director of Student Services David Prang, explains that it was difficult to stay on budget.

“There were approximately seven different user groups involved in the initial design and costing estimates escalated well beyond the initial project budget,” he says. As a result, food services were removed from the plans.

While it remains unclear when this campus will receive its own food services, Prang says that university and Students’ Union officials will be prepared when the opportunity arises again.

“Once the project is initiated, WLU and WLUSU will lead an extensive consultation process to determine immediate and future needs, and the best practices nationally and internationally.”

McMahon also says that WLUSU has an agreement with the university to contribute $1 million to the project once it begins.

It is clear that as the university continues to grow, the need for food services grows with it -something McMahon feels is essential for a university experience.

“The Students’ Union has been clear: we believe food services is a critical aspect of university life that needs to be an investment in Brantford.”

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