Approval for the autumn opening of the first Student Union bar in Langwith has been withdrawn by the University in a statement released yesterday.
Redevelopment work on the bar was supposed to begin at the end of this term, enabling the opening of the new venue to coincide with the start of Freshers’ week in October. However in an email to YUSU Services and Finance Officer Matt Burton, and seen by Nouse, Keith Lilley Director of Facilities Management said: “[we] are aware that our proposed start date was October, but they can only commit themselves with confidence to a January 2009 start date. This is principally because of the pressure on the Directors of Facilities, Management and Estates to complete a large number of high priority projects this summer.”
Burton expressed his disappointment at the decision, saying: “We thought we’d found a window of opportunity in the summer when the Langwith walkway project is being done, and the whole area will have to be shut down with regards to asbestos in the walkway, so they’ll be no people coming in and out,” he said.
“We thought that would be the perfect time to do our project as it’ll be the least disruption to people in that area.”
The decision to reverse this new development lies with University Vice-Chancellor, Brian Cantor. Burton remains optimistic that they will be able to convince him to take positive action towards the plans for the new venue.
“Hopefully, if we get to speak to the Vice-Chancellor about this, he’ll see that students care about this our project, and that it could be really beneficial to the university estate,” Burton said. “If we have it ready for Open days, I think it could be really good as a showcase to show potential students what we have on offer.”
“We’re very strong advocates of working through diplomacy and democracy, and we’ve gone through the democratic processes of the university, but now it’s come down to us having to get the Vice-Chancellor’s ear to present our case as to why this is so important to us and to the kind of social welcome that Langwith has to offer in October,” he added.
Burton has also revealed plans for a student-lead protest to further the campaign for the new venue, the date of which has yet to be decided.
If the decision is not reversed, Langwith College will face the prospect of a Freshers’ week and Autumn term without a bar. Langwith JCRC Chair Zach Pepper, echoed Burton’s concerns as to the impact this would have on his college.
“Some colleges do Freshers’ week without a bar – James manages it – so we will manage through Freshers week. I think the bigger impact will be the Autumn term,” revealed Pepper.
“It will restrict access to L/028, and the snack bar would have to close. It would also have a big impact on the academics who live in the building; essentially it’s their job to read books and they can’t if people are building next door,” he said.
Pepper said he was sceptical as to the University’s claim that the redevelopment could be done in the ten weeks of autumn term. He said: “They’re saying they haven’t got time to do it in summer, but they have in the autumn term. But that just doesn’t seem to fit,” he said. “You just can’t get people working over Christmas. The project is eight or nine weeks long, so it would mean them shutting from week two.”
“The space is there in the summer, the time is there; they’ve closed the college off because of the walkway, they have no conferences in, there is nothing there all summer, it’s just going to sit there, empty, and they’re saying they can’t do it. I think it’s a bit double-standard to be honest. People have put a lot of time into it, they approved the idea, and they’ve now stuck these obstacles in,” he added.
Burton was keen to recognise the pressure that the Director of Facilities is under with concerns to development work over the summer, however he confessed that there could potentially be a ”conflict of interests” at work.
“There is also the commercial side to it,” he said. “We will be going into competition with the University, which we hope will be a positive thing, but we are aware that the Facilities Management do have control over the commercial services, and so there could be some conflict of interests there.”