The (Uncertain) Fate of Ubar

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Words || Angela Heathcote

For students who have at least a year left of their degree it’s important that you make yourself familiar with the 2014 Master Plan. It’s 174 pages, it contains an eyesore level of Macquarie logoism, and no, it doesn’t specifically tell you what will be happening to Ubar. It’s a thick summary of all the constructions that will be happening on campus over the next few years, but it’s devoid of details of how this might affect your overall University experience.

Earlier this year, a post on the Macquarie University closed Facebook group erupted after suggestions that Ubar and the entire Campus Hub would be officially closing due to constructions, with no replacement in sight. Rumours mounted that instead, student accommodation would be taking its place and Ubar would be moving to the Lighthouse Theatre location. Such conspiracies have reached fever pitch, and for good reason. There is no doubt that it’s difficult to communicate a 174-page construction plan, but relying on email as the primary form of communication seems negligent on behalf of the university.

In an interview with the Bruce Dowton, the Vice Chancellor (VC), Grapeshot was not able to gain significant detail in regards to the future of Ubar; instead we were passed on to Paul Wild, the VC’s Executive Assistant, who was also unable to provide solid information.

During the interview with Dowton, Grapeshot commented that the University had failed to answer any questions about Ubar, despite widespread traction online. In response the VC stated, “We understand that for a portion of students the Ubar is very important. For many students the information we get is that Ubar is not important. It is, for certain group of students, significant, but for many students Ubar is not of interest to them because they don’t use it.”

Grapeshot then asked if this was based on statistics, and the VC clarified, “When we talked to a range of international students for argument’s sake, they are very focussed on their studies. Some of them did want to participate in Ubar activities and some don’t. One has to achieve a balance about what the student body is wanting”.

So what’s going on?

For now, Ubar will be moving to the temporary Campus Commons area being built on the Lincoln Lawn (in front of the library) during constructions around the Courtyard. After constructions are finished in around four years, Ubar will be moving back to the new Hub building. So no, campus accommodation will not be replacing the Campus Hub building. Rather, the Hub will be upgraded, while the upper levels of the old library (MUSE) area will be dedicated to student groups, including a Queer Space and Women’s Room.

What the replacement Ubar at the new Campus Common and the Ubar in the new Campus Hub building will actually look like is yet to be confirmed. Grapeshot has been informed that we cannot be forwarded the blueprints for the interim bar because these are merely concept plans and would be out of date too quickly. This is despite that constructions are meant to begin at the end of this month and the new bar is set to open in September.

Voice, the progressive ticket in this year’s SRC election, has vowed to “save Ubar”. When Grapeshot asked Aidan Galea, the head of the Voice ticket, to clarify this aspect of the campaign he said it was based on a desire to allow student voices to influence Ubar constructions.

Galea also stated that Voice intended on setting up a sub-committee of the SRC to take this particular issue on. While this may be a realistic goal for the Ubar that will be constructed in the new Campus Hub building over the next four years, there isn’t enough time for Voice to influence the construction of the interim bar, which begins at the end of this month. This means that there has been no student consultation in regards to the interim bar that will be the new reality for students studying three to four year degrees. Additionally, Suren Missaghi, a candidate for All1ance has also broadly promised to “address the issue of Ubar being taken down” despite plans for a relocation, not demolition.

Concerns have been raised by some students as to whether or not the interim Ubar’s location across from the library is appropriate given the loud noise, intoxicated people and lights. When Grapeshot put this question to the VC he said that the Library was well insulated, however did not address the intoxicated people or lights. Peter Fasogiannis, the Business Operations Manager of Ubar, confirmed that details regarding acoustics had been submitted to the property team but is yet to see the final blueprints himself.