Student referendum to decide fate of school canteen

King’s students will cast ballots in a referendum on Wednesday and Thursday of this week to fund a new canteen in the Wardroom. The proposed canteen, called the HMCS King’s Galley, would be run by the King’s Students’ Union (KSU), and would provide coffee and food from local or fair trade sources. To fund the canteen, the KSU will have to use an $83,000 investment, and students will pay a $14 levy for the next three years.

The bulk of that money will go to the King’s administration. In October, King’s President Anne Leavitt asked the KSU for $75,000 to cover the cost of renovating the alcove in the Wardroom. At first, the KSU was convinced that this was only a starting bid. In a public meeting in October, KSU Student Life Vice President Anna Dubinski dismissed the number as “ridiculous” and said that negotiations would continue.

In reality, there were no negotiations. The KSU, after all, had nothing to offer. The students wanted to use the space, and the administration had no reason to give it to them any cheaper. KSU President Gabe Hoogers made an offer of $5,000 for the space—essentially asking for the renovation costs to be waived—and the administration said no.

As the Christmas break approached, said Dubinski, “the realities of the agreement became more real for us.”

The final deal was as the administration first proposed: $75,000 for the alcove, plus $5,000 a year in rent. With start-up costs, that brings the total price tag to approximately $120,000 dollars.
If students vote ‘yes’ this week, the KSU hopes to start up the HMCS Galley before the end of the year. It would serve coffee from Java Blend and prepared food from Local Source. The Galley’s business plan is on the KSU’s website at http://ksu.ca/section/106.

The total start-up cost of the canteen will be slightly more than one year’s total revenue for the KSU. In addition to the $14 levy from students, the canteen will require the KSU to dig $83,000 out of its savings. The KSU will also be on the hook if the canteen’s income doesn’t match expectations.

Hoogers says that a project like the canteen is the reason the KSU has been saving up and that they will not lose anything from their usual operating budget. Because the new canteen will be not-for-profit, he says, it will succeed where Sodexo’s canteen failed.

Although the KSU has come to an understanding with Leavitt, Hoogers says he still thinks that the administration’s demands were too high.
“It was difficult to originally reconcile the idea that what we planned on doing … was to provide a service for the entire community including the administration, and on the other hand being asked to pay $75,000, just like any other corporation,” Hoogers said.

Leavitt said that if students vote ‘no’ this week, she will probably offer the canteen contract back to Sodexo. At first she said that the administration never intended to cover the cost of renovations and that she always expected the new operators to pay the $75,000. She would not say, however, that Sodexo would actually have to pay as much as the KSU.

“Sodexo makes different contributions to us as a company overall, and so we would have to … weigh that off against what they are are already contributing to us in other ways,” Leavitt said. “In the 20 or 30 years that we’ve worked with them, they have always been very generous to King’s, and so … we would have to take their existing generosity into consideration.”

Neither Hoogers nor Dubinski, however, thinks that the referendum is likely to fail. The KSU is already interviewing staff for the canteen, even though it has yet to be funded. In another gesture of self-assurance, the KSU has set up speakers to promote the motion for Tuesday’s meeting but has not asked anyone to argue against it. If students have objections, says KSU Communications Vice President Anna Bishop, they can just “show up.”

There are no KSU procedures detailing how to run a referendum or to indicate whether a formal debate is necessary.

CORRECTION: There are procedures for a referendum. Please see our correction here.

*If you have missed any of our stories about the canteen in the past you can check them out here, here, here, and here.