Open Letter from the Wholefoods Collective to the MSC Executive RE: $80,000 rent for Wholefoods
Dear MSC Executive,
The Wholefoods Collective understands that the University – as part of the MSA President’s lease agreement negotiations for the MSA – will start formally charging the MSA $80,000 rent per year for the Wholefoods space, which will be offset by an equivalent subsidy of $80,000 provided to the MSA.
Currently, because Wholefoods is an MSA space, the University agrees to provide the space “free of charge”.
The reason for a new form of lease arrangement is ostensibly to “regularise the use and possession of the Wholefoods space,” as stipulated in a past SSAF Funding Agreement. Presumably these changes are intended for the convenience of the University and the department that manages the Campus Centre spaces. However the precise meaning of this so-called “regularising” is still not clear and requires further explanation.
The MSA President has repeatedly told Wholefoods Collective members that the changes are mere formalities and will have no substantial effect on the MSA or Wholefoods. Yet Wholefoods Collective maintain grave concerns about the newly proposed rental arrangement; indeed, we suspect that it may be a potentially duplicitous move by the University to begin charging a commercial or subsidised commercial rate of rent for MSA spaces in future, undermining the MSA’s (and consequently the Wholefoods Collective’s) capacity to provide essential welfare services for students.
For example, we believe that there is a distinct possibility that the University will simply withdraw (or threaten to withdraw) the “offset money” to the MSA for the Wholefoods space, while continuing to maintain the $80,000 charge in rent. This could be potentially disastrous for Wholefoods and the MSA.
These concerns of ours are not unfounded. We refer you to the example of the “data charges” that the University started invoicing the MSA for a number of years ago while also providing “offset money” to the MSA to pay back to the University. In this arrangement the MSA was not substantially affected by a new cost burden, at least initially. However the University soon stopped providing a subsidy for the data costs, leaving the MSA bearing the full cost of the data charge. While we understand that the University has since stopped invoicing the MSA for the data charges, a similarly precarious situation may eventuate with Wholefoods and rental arrangement.
The Campus Centre (formally known as the Union Building) is a space that exists to serve the welfare needs of students. All departments and divisions of the MSA, including Wholefoods, use this space “free of charge” as outlined in all previous lease agreements with the University. This policy is in recognition of the fact that it was student money and public money that built the Union Building in the early 60’s for the explicit provision of student services. This is why all student-run student services, including Wholefoods, do not and should not pay rent to the University.
The Wholefoods Collective requests that the MSA President refrain from signing any lease agreement with the University pertaining to the Wholefoods space until,
a) the Wholefoods Collective is provided with a copy of the agreement and all relevant information regarding the negotiations around the agreement, and,
b) the Wholefoods Collective consents to the new lease agreement
The Wholefoods Collective.