Students’ Union should have done more to help East Campus Students’ Association

While the death of the East Campus Student Association (ECSA) was formally announced on February 12 2018, it had been slowly collapsing since September 2015.

ECSA’s problems began with the completion of Linden and Alder houses. ECSA had historically served only the residents of Aspen and Maple houses, along with students living in various stand-alone homes owned by the university. ECSA also struggled to hold events that could reach the students in the newer buildings like Pinecrest, Tamarack, Alder, and Linden, who were unsatisfied with the association. This was only the start of ECSA’s misfortune.

In Spring 2016, ECSA was evicted from their association house by Residence Services. ECSA executives were told that the house was being demolished to make way for a new north-south pedestrian pathway through East Campus. The ECSA House was an important community hub for ECV residents, as Aspen and Maple have no common rooms.

ECSA was forced to move into a basement room of an old brick house that previously belonged to the now-defunct Residence Halls Association. It was impossible to hold events in the tiny office space, so Residence Services told ECSA that they would be able to host events in East Campus Commons (ECC). ECC doesn’t have complete kitchen facilities and is most often used as a quiet study space. While more modern, ECC was not an adequate replacement for the facilities in the house. Not all residents of Aspen and Maple even had access to ECC due to prevalent issues with the OneCard door system.

While ECSA struggled with their move, the Students’ Union (SU) and Residence Services were in conflict over the collection of residence association fees. As a result of this conflict, ECSA didn’t receive any funding until December 2016, so they couldn’t deliver most of their usual programming during the Fall term.

ECSA executives were overworked and burnt out. Students living in ECV either didn’t know ECSA existed or assumed the executives were dysfunctional, and therefore weren’t interested in running when elections came in Winter 2017. After almost all executive positions went unfilled, ECSA was derecognized by the SU in February 2018.

The SU had countless opportunities to save ECSA. The SU should have realized that Pinecrest, Tamarack, Alder, and Linden weren’t being adequately represented by ECSA, and spun them off into their own residence association(s). This would have allowed ECSA to focus their efforts in Aspen and Maple houses. The SU should have intervened during ECSA’s eviction to ensure they were being moved into a space where they could provide the same range of events and services.

It’s egregious that the SU didn’t advocate on behalf of ECSA when Student Legal Services was unfairly moved into ECSA’s house, which was supposedly being demolished. As a last resort, the SU should have provided additional election support to ensure that ECSA could recruit a strong team of executives and help them re-establish the organization. None of this happened. Instead, we got a statement from the SU VP (Student Life) that attempts to contact the last remaining ECSA president never “worked out.”

While the university certainly contributed to ECSA’s instability, it was the SU’s abject failure to provide support that ultimately killed ECSA. When the Lister Hall Students’ Association (LHSA) was suspended due to hazing allegations, the SU launched a multi-year campaign to challenge the suspension, provide interim representation by hiring students as SU staff, and assist the LHSA in creating a new organizational structure. After two years of warning signs and one year without representation, only now has the SU begun the process of providing restructuring support to ECSA.

Nothing was done to challenge the university’s actions against ECSA, and nothing will be done in the interim to support ECV residents. Either the SU is incompetent, or simply doesn’t care about students living in East Campus.

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