Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Where is OPIRG-Carleton currently located and what is the space like?
In 1988, following extensive negotiations with student stakeholders the Ontario Public Interest Research Group Carleton (OPIRG) moved to room 326 of the University Centre from 514 UC. For the past 27 years, OPIRG has sub-leased room 326 from the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA).
OPIRG’s current space is 552 square feet and includes a Resource Centre, an interior office, five work stations for students, staff, and practicum placement students, as well as storage for numerous student groups. The space provides a comfortable setting and large table where various student clubs and groups can meet and network. The office is equipped with a large photocopy, fax and scanning machine, as well as a projector, and media equipment used regularly by students and community groups.
How many people use the OPIRG office (room 326 UC)?
OPIRG’s space in 326 UC is generally very busy, with dozens of students frequenting the space on a daily basis. OPIRG’s membership includes all undergraduate and graduate students, who are welcome to use the space and get involved in various issues and campaigns.
In addition to members, 2 staff, 9 board members and 2-6 placement volunteers or interns use the office regularly. The space is often used outside of office hours to accommodate the needs of working groups and board members.
Does OPIRG pay rent?
Yes. OPIRG pays rent. Although most PIRGs in Ontario have rent exemption status on their respective campuses, OPIRG-Carleton pays rent on a monthly basis.
How much rent does OPIRG pay?
OPIRG currently pays $1,235.80 per month to CUSA, based on our 552 square feet of rented office space.
Has OPIRG paid on time?
OPIRG has always paid its rent on time.
Who is evicting OPIRG and why?
On June 15th, OPIRG staff met with CUSA president Fahd Alhattab to receive the April installment of student fees, and after prodding the purpose of the meeting (it is not routine to meet with the CUSA executive in order to receive the levy installment), were informed that “a review of the rental agreement” would transpire. In a June 10th email, President Fahd Alhattab informed us that “We are reviewing all rental agreements we have with the University and other partners, to make sure we're up to date on everything.”
During the June 15th meeting, OPIRG staff were informed that it was CUSA’s intention to create a Communications Office in the current Clubs & Societies (C & S) space, move C & S into the OPIRG space, and have OPIRG move into the old CASG (Carleton Academic Student Government) space (127 B UC) on the first floor of the Unicentre.
President Fahd Alhattab told OPIRG staff that the decision was made by consensus between the CUSA executive and full-time staff.
What is the 127B UC space like?
127B UC is 73% smaller than 326 UC and would severely alter the scope and ability of OPIRG to function as it has for the past 27 years. The major advantage to the space is that it would facilitate access to OPIRG for those unable to use stairs to access room 326 UC.
What does OPIRG want?
OPIRG recognizes the importance and value of student space on campus and in the Unicentre. Student clubs and societies, as well as the service centres, serve as an essential component of student life and the overall academic experience. OPIRG is also motivated to have a space that is more accessible to those who are not able to access our current office because of the stairs and lack of elevator.
OPIRG wants a meaningful discussion and consultation with all affected parties in order to come to a mutually beneficial outcome for all stakeholders. OPIRG is committed to maintaining an office of comparable size and centrality to its current space in room 326 UC.
What has the process with CUSA executive looked like so far?
- CUSA President Fahd Alhattab met with OPIRG staff on June 15th. Originally the meeting was described as a chance to bring by OPIRG’s levy cheque and have a quick meeting. When asked about the content of the meeting, President Fahd Alhattab mentioned that a “review of the rental agreement” would transpire and that CUSA was “reviewing all rental agreements(...) to make sure we're up to date on everything.”
- At the meeting, President Fahd Alhattab indicated that CUSA executives and full-time staff had determined a course of action to create a Communications Office in the current Clubs & Societies (C & S) space, move C & S into the current OPIRG space, and move OPIRG into 127B UC. President Fahd Alhattab indicated that although this was the preferred course of action, it was not a finalized decision. Staff clarified that OPIRG works in consensus and that the staff’s role was to bring the information back to the board of directors.
- On June 19th, OPIRG followed up with a letter requesting a meeting ideally in July given the scheduling needs of board and staff members.
- President Fahd Alhattab replied on June 23rd indicating a number of availabilities (including two time slots that had passed by the time the email was sent).
- OPIRG staff and board members leave town for meetings and other functions and reply on July 1st suggesting a meeting on July 8th.
- President Fahd Alhattab indicated that a notice of termination dated June 29th had been sent and confirms a meeting on July 8th.
- At the July 8th meeting, OPIRG proposes to the CUSA Board of Trustees and General Manager to rescind the eviction notice and extend OPIRG-Carleton’s lease in order to enter negotiations and follow proper consultation procedures and overall process in order to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
- President Fahd Alhattab recognizes that OPIRG is at the “butt end” of the CUSA executive’s decisions, but the July 31st eviction deadline is firm.
- CUSA executives indicate a draft lease for 127B UC will be sent in the coming days and that CUSA will help facilitate moving OPIRG into room 127B UC.
President Fahd Alhattab has been apologetic about the situation facing OPIRG but generally proceeded as though there are no other options. This isn’t the case! It is possible to reach a mutually beneficial outcome and involve more stakeholders in the discussion and decision-making process .
OPIRG will continue to discuss move logistics and leasing options for room 127B UC but recognizes that the process to reallocate campus space and effectively serve students is best served by allocating more time to OPIRG’s current lease and engaging in meaningful exchanges that enable OPIRG to move to a space of similar size and prominence in the University Centre.
Who are OPIRG members?
All Carleton undergraduate and graduate students are members of OPIRG-Carleton. Undergraduate students pay $6.96 per year and graduate students pay $6.80 per year. Although not required to do so, OPIRG offers a refund to any student who disagrees with our mandate.
What does OPIRG do and why does it need to keep the current space?
OPIRG needs to keep its current space until a space of similar size and centrality in UC is available. Its a bustling hub that enables students to organize and engage in a unique way. OPIRG makes the most of its office and the information below demonstrates how:
- While students direct the organization and make up the bulk of core volunteers, the organization has also employed students and Carleton alumni, which currently includes two full-time staff positions.
- OPIRG-Carleton provides practicum research or placement for credit opportunities to multiple students in the Fall and Winter semesters.
- OPIRG-Carleton has a Resource Centre and Library, including extensive campus archives which students access as part of their course requirements.
- OPIRG-Carleton offers bursaries each year to undergraduate, graduate, and international students.
- Hundreds of students and community members are involved in OPIRG’s numerous working groups which regularly use OPIRG’s office space.
- Hundreds more students regularly volunteer with OPIRG and frequent the office space.
- Carleton students have repeatedly demonstrated support for OPIRG-Carleton and its mandate through various referenda in its 35 year history, including a 2013 vote which garnered over 70% voter support.
How have previous discussions between OPIRG and CUSA around student space transpired?
In 1983-84, an issue involving student space arose on campus and was resolved following extensive discussions through all affected parties, resulting in a mutually beneficial agreement.
OPIRG agreed to move into a smaller room (514) during CKCU’s funding drive and was later provided with room 326 UniCentre. CUSA has in the past reached out to OPIRG to try and secure a rent exemption from the university reflective of the reality that several PIRGs are not charged rent on campus. Discussions around leases or student space have been lengthy and allowed time for meaningful exchanges.
If OPIRG has been offered an alternative space, why does it talk about being evicted?
OPIRG received a letter from President Fahd Alhattab indicating the organization has until July 31st 2015 to vacate room 326 UC. Regardless of the offer to lease 127B UC to OPIRG, OPIRG is being evicted from the current office in room 326 UC which OPIRG has maintained for 27 years.
OPIRG has stated that relocating to 127B UC would be detrimental to the organization, why is it continuing to discuss the move?
OPIRG is not opposed to relocating and wants a Unicentre office space of comparable size and centrality to room 326 UC that is accessible to all students at Carleton. Given President’s Fahd Alhattab’s assurance that CUSA is committed to improving relations with OPIRG and recognizes the organizations’ rightful place within Carleton and the Unicentre, OPIRG is hopeful that discussions can continue to ensure the best scenario is reached for all affected parties. While OPIRG is optimistic that alternatives will quickly arise in the coming days, including a renewal of OPIRG’s lease to room 326 UC to allow more time for meaningful dialogue concerning Unicentre space, it is also necessary for OPIRG to consider what a move to room 127B would entail for the organization and its members.
Several OPIRG members, alumni and supporters seem to identify this eviction threat as part of a drawn out attack on OPIRG. Is this the case?
OPIRG began as a CUSA club for the first two years of its existence. Over the 35 plus years OPIRG has been on campus relations between CUSA and OPIRG have often involved respectful exchanges and collaborations. In recent years, the CUSA executive removed OPIRG from its handbook despite the fact that OPIRG offers services to CUSA’s members (who are also generally OPIRG members). The CUSA executive has also withheld OPIRG’s levy fee and threatened eviction. In 2013, the CUSA executive initiated a referendum campaign to remove OPIRG’s levy which was met with resounding defeat.
Despite these attacks on OPIRG between 2012-2015, President Fahd Alhattab has verbally assured OPIRG that CUSA is committed to improving relations with OPIRG and that CUSA recognizes OPIRG’s place on campus and in the Unicentre. He also stated that the move is not motivated by opposition to OPIRG.
OPIRG is disappointed that given President Fahd Alhattab’s assurances, as well as CUSA’s commitment to transparency, our proposal to renew the lease for room 326 UC to allow time for a meaningful and inclusive discussion and decision-making process was rejected.
OPIRG notes that the process thus far seems to indicate a willingness to discuss the logistics of moving to 127B UC rather than engage OPIRG and other stakeholders in creative and involved discussions around Unicentre space allocations. OPIRG is confident that such discussions would lead to better results for all concerned parties.
Why has the square footage of space been described differently in different posts or updates?
OPIRG was told that the space was ⅓ to ¼ of its current office. Since that time OPIRG was able to measure room 127B UC and get more accuracy in the square footage of the office space. This has allowed OPIRG to update its numbers since its initial call out and petition form were issued.
Is there a way I can support OPIRG?
- Sign the petition!
- Email the CUSA executive and insist the eviction deadline is extended by renewing OPIRG’s lease to allow adequate time to work toward a mutually beneficial outcome that includes finding a comparable space on campus in terms of size and centrality where OPIRG can continue to serve students. Letters from community members, professors, university staff and other organizations are much appreciated!
- Join us on Wed., July 15th @ 6pm for a general meeting in the OPIRG office (326 UC).
- For updates:
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