Council members express skepticism over proposed student centre expansion

A proposal by UCD Student Services to expand the student centre presented to Council tonight has been meet with skepticism by many UCDSU representatives, with a number of members stating that the Union should refuse to hold a referendum on the issue until Student Services outline their priorities and provide more detail.Potential facilities mooted in the presentation include office space for societies which do not currently have a room along the societies' corridor, communal space for society events, meditation and relaxation spaces, a charging hub and rehearsal spaces which could accommodate DanceSoc and the Musical Society.Due to the high demand for venues in the Student Centre, The Musical Society currently rehearse in the stairwells beside The University Observer office, and by the fire exit next to the Dramsoc Theatre.Sports clubs in UCD might also be set to benefit from an expansion to the gym and the creation of a new indoor sports hub.Attendees at the informal 'Town Hall' meeting, however, were critical of the promises made in the presentation. UCDSU International Coordinator Andrew Grossen stated that there was a lot to be improved upon but "specifics are necessary", while Campaigns & Communications Officer Thomas Monaghan lamented the absence of proposals to expand library services and study space.Mental Health Coordinator Sadhbh O'Flaherty stated that current mental health services in the student centre "are a joke" and that students "don't even have baseline support". Another member of Council asked whether the Union should support the proposal given that Student Services are "reluctant to show concrete plans".[video width="638" height="360" mp4=""][/video]The expansion would be funded by the extension of the student centre levy for a further 5 years, which, according to Head of Services Jason Masterson, would be maintained at current levels subject to inflation. The levy was introduced in 2007 to cover the construction of the student centre, at a cost of €150. Since then, the levy has risen to €254.Welfare Officer Melissa Plunkett, who was a student in UCD at the time the student centre was originally proposed, stated that students at the time were promised free access to the pool.Union members also raised the issue of car parking spaces would be moved, if the expansion were to go ahead. In response, UCDSU President Barry Murphy stated that the question had been posed to Student Services but that they were not forthcoming with an answer. Murphy stated that the Union should push for things that benefit the most students and that are the least expensive, pointing to the indoor sports hub as a proposal which would benefit a limited number of students.Journalist with Virgin Media News Gavan Reilly, who attended the meeting in his capacity as a member of the Union's Constitutional Review Group, stated that, at the time the original levy and student centre were proposed, "there wasn't much by way of input" between UCDSU and those who proposed the centre. "It was very much a take it or leave it" situation, he said.UCDSU President Barry Murphy cautioned that the Union should consider its stance on the new levy carefully as Student Services "are putting pressure on us to support this". He stated that "if we take a stance, it will affect other things."Not all members were critical of the proposals, with one attendee in support stating that "UCD is an ever-expanding bubble and it's going to does need to happen."