Macquarie Uni Student Groups slam new room-hiring fees

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Above: Students part of the Macquarie University Greek Association, which has over 300 members, are forced to hold their AGM in one of the small coloured boxes in MAZE.

Words || Angus Dalton

‘We listened to you,’ thundered Nicole Saunders, Manager of Campus Engagement, to a gathering of Macquarie’s clubs and societies last year as the MAZE space was officially opened at the Student Group Awards.

But, it seems, the university was also listening to the jingle of potential corporate dollars.

The MAZE space was opened after extensive ‘consultation’ with students as a place on campus tailored for student gatherings, but student groups are frustrated after they were told that hiring a room in MAZE for events would cost them at least $90.

The room-hiring fees will be going into the pocket of an outsourced company, FORTE Catering and Events.

Student groups are unable to hire other rooms on campus until Week 4 due to a ‘booking block-out’ that bans them from using other, free rooms for the first three weeks of semester.

This means groups have been unable to host large-scale events on campus – particularly after the closure of the courtyard and the downsizing of Ubar.

The Macquarie University Greek Association (MUGA), a group that has over 300 members, was forced to hold its AGM in one of the small, coloured spaces in MAZE – a box that can barely fit 10 people comfortably – while a corporate event was hosted in the conference rooms.

‘We’re not very impressed,’ says outgoing president of MUGA, George Mpliokas. ‘It’s a step backwards. No one asked me to knock down C10A. Nobody told me that MAZE would be rooms for hire. Before the construction we had access to rooms; we’re student groups, we contribute to the campus culture, and this is the thanks we get?’

MUGA and 52 other student groups have signed a letter sent to Nicole Saunders, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Kevin Jameson and the SRC that says the implementing of hiring fees ‘ultimately detriments life on campus’.

‘MAZE has been marketed as a space for students and it is disappointing that the largest and most adaptable area of this space is not available free of charge,’ the letter reads. ‘Many groups need to use spaces like this on a regular basis for events such as rehearsal or training, and $90 for each use is not a viable long term alternative.’

Mpliokas, who says he was quoted $2000 by the catering service on campus to serve a few bottles of wine after a MUGA event, and has had trouble organising free barbecues for members due to increasing competition with food trucks, says the university is focusing on corporate relationships to the detriment of students.

‘Macquarie University has become a place where you rock up, go to class, and you leave,’ he says. ‘That’s because of the last 5 years of change, the corporate interests that’ve got their finger in the pie, and the direction we’ve been led in by the people who make the calls. That’s not SRC, that’s not Campus Engagement, but that’s the way that we’ve been led.’

He says that student groups will continue to flounder and shut down as cuts to Campus Engagement continue.

The SRC has said in a statement that they are ‘fully aware’ of the concern around room-hiring fees and that ‘a variety of solutions are being explored’. The SRC has recommended that, ‘societies apply for funding from campus engagement and discuss other solutions with their Client Liaison Officer (CLO).’

Macquarie has responded by saying: ‘The University has heard the concerns of the student groups and is in further negotionations (sic) regarding the cost of the rooms.’

Read the letter signed by 53 student groups here.


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