We’ve found ourselves in an interesting time at the University.
The University is undergoing some major changes and Union House is one of them. But before I dive into Union House business, here’s some background info.
The Business Improvement Program
In mid 2013, the University announced they will be conducting a comprehensive review of University services in a project called the “Business Improvement Program” or commonly known as “BIP”. The main goal of BIP is to sustain the University’s national and international standing and to improve the way the University functions.
As part of this restructure, they’re planning to centralise student services move them to a space called the “Student Precinct” (more about this later).
So, where does Union House fit into all this?
UMSU President, Rachel Withers, held a student forum on Wednesday 22 April to discuss the future of Union House and UMSU. Withers first gave a short run down of what she knows about the relocation of Union House, and this was followed by a Q&A session with University representations (listed below).
- Elizabeth Capp – Directory of Students and Equity,
- Chris White – Executive Director of Facilities and Sustainability, and
- Neil Robinson – Executive Director of Academic Services & Registrar
There were a number of students (myself included) who were live tweeting the forum, and you can find our stories in this post: https://storify.com/daphane_ng/student-forum.
Here’s some of the things that came out of the forum.
Why is UMSU moving out of Union House?
For a number of reasons. The building contains asbestos and this limits the expansion and any development of the building. UMSU also needs a bigger space to accommodate their growth.
Withers emphasised that UMSU’s new home ought to be better than what we currently have in Union House. If not, she will fight back.
Where is UMSU’s new home going to be?
University reps and Withers stressed that they’re still in the beginning stages of planning and do not know where UMSU’s new home will be at this point of time. It is likely that UMSU will move into the Student Precinct.
What’s this Student Precinct?
The Student Precinct will house our mega student centre (all student centres will be merged into one – ha!), the Co-op Bookshop, Health and Wellbeing, Student Services etc. The new precinct will occupy the corner of Grattan St and Swanston St.
According to this University website, “This particular location was chosen because of its proximity to the main public transport networks in the Parkville area.” It was also mentioned in the forum that this area is more central to students across campus (compared to where Union House is).
It has been confirmed that this mega student centre and the Co-op will be located on Level 1 of the 757 Building. What hasn’t been confirmed is the location of UMSU & GSA and the food and retail stores.
Where will all the food and retail shops go?
All the food and retail stores in Union House will remain where they are until 2018 due to leasing agreements. This means that the physical building will still be around for a couple of years, but after that – they’re not 100% sure what they’ll do with this space (more on this later).
University reps mentioned that external food consultants – Brain and Poulter – have been brought in to advise on what to do with our food outlets. The result? The consultants said that our food outlets are too centralised and advised for wider distribution of food stores across campus.
Will Union House be demolished?
Someone from the floor asked whether the University will preserve Union House due to its history, and the University reps said that this something they will consider. However, it’s still to early to say what exactly will happen to the building and they do not have any concrete answers for now.
What will happen to Union House after UMSU moves?
Again, University reps said they aren’t 100% sure, but mentioned that the space could be used for student accommodation. This is not confirmed, it’s just something they’re looking at.
With North Court out of the picture, where will the usual UMSU Band and BBQs be held?
University reps said it’s very difficult to find spots where live music can be played in the Precinct area. However, they do see potential in the area behind Frank Tate to possibly replace North Court.
Is the closure of Grattan St still going ahead?
There has been talks about the permanent closure of Grattan Street, and University reps have commented that although this is something they aspire, realistically, it may not go ahead.
Who can I talk to about Union House’s relocation?
For any queries and concerns, the best people to contact right now is the UMSU and GSA President. There will also be more forums in the future, which will open up more opportunities to stay in the loop of things.
That’s the jist of what happened at the forum!
For official UMSU statements about the relocation of Union House, head over to their FAQs website. But for now, this is all the information we have – stay tuned for more!