Talks about Baruch's Student Center still in progress
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 11:09
Baruch's Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and administration are in the process of negotiating a deal to purchase the Annex building on 25th Street, but flaws in the deal and in the building's plans are hindering the process.
USG unanimously passed a "Resolution Supporting Student's Right to Space" on Aug. 30. Among other things, this resolution refers to the student activity fee increase passed by USG last semester; "students enrolled during the Fall 2010 semester… tax themselves, via a student activity fee increase, in order to acquire, in the near future, student space in addition to that which they already use for student crafted programs and events."
The increase of $30 per semester generates approximately $1,000,000 each semester to be used for the purpose of acquiring a student center.
Last Tuesday, the College Association was supposed to vote to approve a deal for the Annex building, but the vote was postponed to an undetermined date. "The meeting might be Friday Sept.16, but it may go to the 20th," said USG President Antonio Alfonso. "This time... questions came up that needed to be answered."
"The first was about the right of refusal." Alfonso explained that, under the contract, if someone besides the college approached the building owners to purchase the space, Baruch would have the right to refuse the first offer. This right was supposed to stand from 2015-2017, but Alfonso said that the College Association wanted the wording in this stipulation to be clearer. "The problem was that the right of refusal was unclear as to what time period we would be allowed to do that. It was a good catch by a faculty member."
"The other problem had to do with the 'most occupancy' numbers. They were way too small," said Alfonso. A source that did not agree to go on record confirmed that the occupancy number per floor given by the building's owners was 50, but also that they were flexible on this number.
"The pros lay heavily on the location of the building itself," said Alfonso. The building, on 25th Street, sits right next to the Newman Library." The cons are that the building is fairly old and awkwardly shaped. A big concern remains whether the building in question would be able to handle a large amount of students during a club hour rush."
Jahn Golden, chair of finance for USG, expressed similar concerns. "The largest problem with the Annex building is accessibility. The elevators and stairwells are very small, which would limit any opportunity of holding large social events. The best use of the area would probably be as an office space, similar to how it is currently used by the Honors Program and the Study Abroad office. A great benefit of having the space would be that it would allow for dozens of clubs to have their own offices."
Antonio also explained that other students in USG had their own misgivings about the plan as well. "You know what, yeah, some people don't really like it. Some are very much against it. But in my experience, the more it simmers in people's minds, the more it seems favorable."
"Many students are under the impression that Baruch currently owns that building when, in fact, it doesn't," said Alfonso. "The plan would be to lease three floors in the building with an option to buy the whole building through fiscal year 2017. The question of whether we would get kicked out if the option isn't exercised has been one that as of yet has to be answered more clearly."
According to current negotiations, Baruch would be entering a lease-to-buy contract, in which the school would pay a yearly fee for the use of the building, and would be given the option to purchase the space outright after a certain time period. According to Alfonso, the student fee increase would be enough to cover the lease payments, but the school would need an extra infusion of cash to purchase the Annex building. "As for buying the building, it would have to come from alumni though… if it does not come, which [the] administration is pretty sure would not happen, then there could be a potential problem," said Alfonso.
Alfonso is also concerned that the administration would not misappropriate Baruch's existing student space. "One thing that worries me is whether they see it as a possibility of students' space being moved from the VC to the new space, which if it were up to me would not happen."
Alfonso indicated that, if the plan for the Annex were to be approved, USG would hold surveys to get a better idea of the student body's plans for the space.