OUSU forced to remain in “unusable space”

first_imgThe university has vetoed OUSU proposals to up shop from Bonn Square and move operations to a property on George Street, which OUSU President Stefan Baskerville claimed “would have cost less money, was in a better location and in better condition.”OUSU has argued that its present home is “ill-suited” to its purposes. Of the its three floors, only two are functional and there is no disabled access. The building, occupied by OUSU since 2002, is also highly inefficient in its energy use.A spokesperson for the University, which pays the rent on OUSU’s offices, claimed that the axing of the project was part of a moratorium on capital projects in the current financial climate. He said, “It would have required significant expenditure for OUSU to move to new premises.“The University leases its current premises from a landlord, and moving out would have required restoration of the premises to their initial state – removing many of the alterations that have been made in the meantime. The cost of this (dilapidations costs) was estimated at being at least £100,000. Removal costs and adapting the new premises for OUSU use would have cost a further £80,000.“It may have been that the rent for the new premises may have worked out a bit cheaper than the current rent for Thomas Hull House, but the expense of the other costs meant the move was not approved.”Baskerville acknowledged that the University’s moratorium had been “responsible for delaying a fair number of capital projects across the University so we were not being unusually treated in that regard.”This academic year the student union expects to expend £129,095 on building costs; in terms of their projected total expenditure, this works out at 30%.An OUSU document – ‘Urgent Challenges’ – notes, “OUSU spends an excessive proportion of its income on costs associated with its premises. Most charities would be criticised for spending such a large proportion of their income on premises.”Baskerville confirmed that moving out of OUSU Towers remains a long-term ambition for the union. “We think it is hugely important that OUSU’s building is accessible to all students, that the space is suitable, that premises costs are as low as possible, and that OUSU is better located.”It is the University’s intention to support OUSU in this. Its spokesperson stated, “Thomas Hull House is not the best premises for OUSU. The university is seeking to negotiate the shortest possible lease renewal and will continue to work with OUSU to identify suitable, accessible and less expensive alternative premises.”Brasenose JCR President Paul Gladwell said, “The refusal will certainly limit OUSU’s attempts to offer a wider array of services, with the current venue being small and decrepit with significant accessibility problems. Without larger premises, welfare or educational events numbers are naturally limited, restricting the efficiency of hosting events of these kinds.”Mae Penner, OUSU Officer for Magdalen JCR, criticised the University’s refusal to fork out on the move: “As the representative body for Oxford students, accessibility to students is vital in order for OUSU to operate effectively. Unfortunately the lack of wheelchair access and the high rent being paid for partially unusable space in the current premises have compromised OUSU’s ability to serve its members as well as it should.“Money which could be spent on students is instead being spent on unsuitable and ill-located office space. It is disappointing that the University does not seem to share OUSU’s outlook on this issue.”Baskerville, however, refuted this view, He said, “Relations between OUSU and the University are good and have improved during the course of this year, even if we disagree over the decision to keep OUSU in Thomas Hull House for the time being. The University recognises that OUSU needs to change premises, I just think it needs to be treated as a more urgent priority.”last_img