In February of 2016, Acadia Students’ Union members were tasked with voting yes or no for a potential facelift to the Axe Lounge, a renovation which was paired with a vote for revamped disability access in the Students’ Union Building. The question that was paired with the February vote was: “do you support the creation of a Renovation & Accessibility Fee in order to fund a renovation to the Axe Lounge and, subsequently, to enhance accessibility projects within the ASU Students’ Centre?” The answer to this vote was a solidified yes, with floor plans which were drafted for the renovation being made public at roughly the same time. This October, the Executive Board, without vote or consultation of the voting student body, decided to reschedule the renovations planned for the Axe Lounge until the mid-September early October 2017 academic year. This decision was met with contest by a number of student-led groups, including members of the student body, Axe Lounge staff members (who would’ve lost upwards of three weeks of work due to this decision), and members of the Student Representative Council.
The issue that originally arose from the change to the Axe Lounge renovations was the lack of student consultation that was involved in the decision. In an email illustrating the decision to forgo student consultation Sam Sproule, Acadia Students’ Union President, had this to say: “There isn’t a clear process for decision making in the constitution, and operational manners often go through the executive board. We considered going into broad student consultation, however decided against it due to many factors, including delivering an answer in a timely manner, in aims to assist grad class executive with their planning. A town hall on campus would allow students to bring their views of the situation, but wouldn’t necessarily bring clarity to what decision would be best for the student body. This decision was discussed over multiple meetings and implications were brought to us by full-time staff and students. We also consulted the grad class executive who gave a strong opinion that the class of 2017 should have Parents’ Night in the Axe Lounge.”
The initial change to the renovation date of the Axe Lounge was proposed in order to allow the graduating class of 2016/2017 to spend Parents’ Night at the Axe Lounge before it was closed for the summer months. Parents’ Night is an event where graduating students and their parents (many of whom are Acadia alumni) celebrate the achievements associated with graduation. Besides the sentimental factor associated with Parents’ Night at the Axe alumni are a large contributing economic force to the university and one would not be wrong to assume that appeasing future alumni would be a beneficial choice for the university and the Students’ Union as a whole. In a separate email response Sproule listed the reasons for the change of renovation date to the Axe Lounge as such:
- The Class of 2017 has paid the fee for the referendum passed for Axe Lounge Renovations and Accessibility but is the only group that will most likely not be students at Acadia when the renovations are complete. The $30 fee this year for approximately 700 graduating students contributes $21,000 to the project. Therefore, we believe the graduating class deserves to have Parents’ Night at the Axe as many classes have had before them.
- Any short-term lost income for the bar being closed during the month of September is expected to be made up by the positive long-term affect of the renovations.
- Work hours lost for Axe Lounge staff is hoped to be made up by having a busier bar, open longer hours after the renovations. Most welcome week events are held outside of the Axe Lounge, where Axe staff are hired to work. Also, the Mackeen room has been underutilized the past few years on campus and this provides an opportunity to kick-start the space and host social events during the month of September.
Following the response from these parties Sproule initiated a number of talks with Axe Lounge staff, Grad Class executive members, and members of the SRC in order to further the discussion around the issue. The latest of these meetings took place on November 4th, where it was decided that “… the Grad Class Executive is receptive to looking at other venues on campus or in the ASU Building to host Parents Night … this would mean the planned renovation project could commence in April, thus giving us a projected four-month window to complete the project prior to the commencement of staff training at end of August.”
Ultimately, the decision by the executive team was reversed due to a public outcry by members of Axe Lounge staff, SRC members, and IO leaders. Following the vote back in February, the renovations to the Axe Lounge will remain as originally planned with the Lounge being closed during the summer months and reopening anew in September of 2017. Accountability is the cornerstone of any responsible government. In this particular case, change was made due to the actions of those who were wholly unhappy with a decision that was being made without their input. If this conflict serves as a learning lesson to anyone, it’s that consultation with a wider student population is essential in making changes that affect them and their roles within a unionized community.