By Amedeo De Pretto

Photo by Trevor Swann

Representatives of both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ Student Union Building Committees held a public debate on Nov. 30 in the University Centre Galleria on the upcoming Student Union Building referendum. Jim Kennelly, Carleton’s Ombudsperson, moderated the event.

Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) president Fahd Alhattab started the ‘Yes’ side of the debate by highlighting the importance of student input in the building’s design process.

“For us to be able to do a specific schematic design of the building costs about 1.5 million dollars, and for us to make that commitment we need a commitment from students,” he said.

Sophie, who did not want to disclose her last name, was joined by Ruth Lau-Macdonald on behalf of the ‘No’ Committee.  Concern was raised over the need for a new building, as well as the financial burden it will place on future students.

“That’s taxation without representation,” Sophie said, regarding the fact that the students who will pay for the proposed building do not get to vote on it.

Lau-Macdonald, who had previously started an online petition asking for more transparency regarding the referendum, argued that students weren’t involved enough in the consultation process for the building.

“We had no idea that this project was so far down the line, and it’s really hard for students to get a sense of all the work that was done ahead of time in this,” she said.

After both sides concluded their initial statements, Kennelly allowed for rebuttal and questions from the crowd.

A student, introduced as Mariah, voiced her concern on the open layout of the new building and how it might impact the services offered.

“At the moment, service centers are pretty anonymous. My concern is that having these services in a really centralized place disrupts the functioning of those spaces,” Mariah said.

Further questions were raised by students, ranging from a possible update to mental health services offered to the technicalities behind the agreed fee increase.

Both sides answered students’ questions, with Alhattab arguing that actions impacting future students are inevitable.

“Progress only happens when people of today make decisions for people of the future,” Alhattab said, “Our goal is to empower students in their pursuit of personal success. How do we do that? Giving them the resources they need and the environment they have.”

Following the debate, Lau-MacDonald said that CUSA has been too heavily involved in the campaign, raising questions over fairness.

“I think you saw a very organized institution with the support of the Ombudsperson up against a group of students trying their best,” she said.

With both sides firmly arguing their stance, the debate ended on an optimistic tone, asking students to make their voices heard.

“At the end of the day you need to make sure that the people around you are informed and that they’re voting on this, because this is something that is very important,” Sophie said.

“Our pride and joy at Carleton, what we say differentiates us from [the University of Ottawa], is that we have community,” Alhattab said.