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Student Forum FAQs

There’s been a lot of questions raised in the past week around UMSU’s move to a new location on campus.

Here are some of the facts:

Ownership of the Building

Union House is a University of Melbourne building. The University has entered into an agreement with MUSUL Services (a wholly University-owned subsidiary, that is independent from UMSU) that means that MUSUL has responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the facility. The University continues to have some responsibility for bearing the costs of maintaining Union House. MUSUL Services does not pay rent to the University. UMSU occupies space in Union House by agreement with MUSUL Services. UMSU and MUSUL Services have separate roles and organisational structures. UMSU does not pay rent to MUSUL Services to occupy or use space in Union House.

Asbestos

In 2012, the presence of asbestos was discovered in Union House. MUSUL Services and the University closed parts of the building while further investigations were undertaken and the potential for exposure to asbestos was reduced. As part of this process significant sections of the building have been deemed to contain hazardous materials. There is no immediate safety issue but protocols have been put in place to ensure that future exposure to asbestos or other hazardous materials does not occur.

Retail Tenancies

MUSUL Services is the landlord in Union House. All commercial tenancies, including the Food Co-op, are leased from MUSUL Services. Rental income is a significant source of income for MUSUL Services. UMSU receives no income derived from MUSUL Services’ commercial activities.

Student Accommodation

The University of Melbourne has identified the development of increased availability of affordable student housing as a strategic priority. Accordingly, the University has targeted a significant expansion of the number of beds available for student accommodation by 2020. The University has earmarked the site currently occupied by Union House for potential development of student accommodation.

Where is UMSU going?

It’s not yet set in stone where UMSU will be located, however there is no circumstance under which UMSU will be left without a building on campus. The University has repeatedly expressed its desire to improve student experience and services, and do not see Union House as the optimal location for the Student Union. At this stage it seems most likely that UMSU will receive a space in the new “Student Precinct”, which will occupy the corner of Grattan St and Swanston St, alongside the Graduate Student Association, Student Wellbeing, the Student Centre and other University-run student services. This project is in the early stages, and both UMSU and the GSA are involved in these discussions.

Are our current facilities sufficient for UMSU?

There are heaps of things we love about Union House – its amazing history, the Info Desk, the wonderful Theatre productions and community, as well as the close proximity of coffee.

There are also some long standing issues with Union House – things are hard to find due to the current arrangement of space within the building. Anyone who’s ever had to find the Clubs Office will know that getting there is not straight forward!

We’re also unable to do significant building works – meaning that we can’t upgrade technology as quickly as we would like, to support new services and activities. There are lots of areas in the building that don’t have adequate ventilation, heating and cooling. Space is also an issue – and moving should enable us to have more storage and adequate office space, and to cater properly for our new Radio station and new volunteering programmes. Even though there are good things in the building, the limitations on space and how it is used means that there are things we would like to do but we just can’t.

So what is already decided?

At this stage, the Co-op Bookshop and the all-Faculty Student Centre will be located on Level 1 of the 757 Building (on the corner of Swanston St and Grattan St). The bookshop will take the Swanston St side of the building, while the main student service centre will fill the other half of the level. The levels directly above this will house the administrative support staff for this student centre. Work is already underway on this area which is expected to be completed mid-2015.

UMSU has long expressed concerns to the University over the ability of a single main student service point, and the size of the space allocated for this activity. The intention is that the majority of student inquiry will be handled online or over the phone by 13 MELB.

Health & Wellbeing need to relocated from Cardigan St to this precinct by early 2016. No location has yet been determined for these services.

What about food?

The University has expressed its desire for food to be more spread out around campus. The University engaged a food consultant, Brain & Poulter, to advise on the optimal spread and placement of food outlets on campus. Brain & Poulter advised the University that food is currently inappropriately distributed on this campus, with a large percentage of options located in a small percentage of space. UMSU will be circulating its own survey regarding food preferences on campus for you to share your views.

How can I find out more?

Come along to the Student Forum on Wednesday 22nd April at 5pm in Union Theatre. Staff will be attending on behalf of the University to answer your questions. Also make sure you read Office Bearer Reports in Farrago each month, and check the council minutes for more detailed Office Bearer Reports, to keep up to date with this kind of news.

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If you can’t make it, search for #UMSUforum hashtag for live updates!