By Leveller Staff
The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at Carleton University narrowly avoided eviction this past summer.
The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) issued OPIRG-Carleton a lease termination notice, requiring them to vacate 326 Unicentre by July 31, a 552 square foot office the group has occupied since 1988. CUSA President Fahd Alhattab verbally offered to relocate OPIRG to room 127B Unicentre, which has approximately one-fourth the operational space at 149 square feet, according to a media advisory.
Alhattab told the Leveller that CUSA intended for 326 Unicentre to be “converted into a Clubs and Societies co-working space.” Like his predecessor, Alhattab ran for CUSA on the promise of increasing funding for clubs and societies. Folarin Odunayo failed to accomplish this task in April’s CUSA referenda. This is the second year CUSA has tried to raise funding for Clubs and Societies to no avail.
In response to this eviction attempt, OPIRG launched a petition and letter-writing campaign which hundreds supported. Shortly after, Alhattab indicated that CUSA was looking into a solution that would allow OPIRG to remain in 326 Unicentre.
On June 29, OPIRG-Carleton issued a membership advisory confirming a lease agreement had been signed for 326 Unicentre for a seven month term. CUSA’s VP Finance Craig Handy told the Charlatan that “the lease was short to allow future CUSA executives freedom from this year’s decisions.”
The new lease was accompanied by a significant rent hike of 27.6 per cent, according to OPIRG staff.
Negotiations concerning student space have long been a tense issue on campus, but CUSA and OPIRG have historically cooperated with each other.
The relationship soured without precedence under the presidency of Alexander Golovko in 2012 – 2013, when the “A Better Carleton” (ABC)-dominated CUSA executive ran an unsuccessful campaign to defund OPIRG-Carleton.
Students resolutely defeated the referendum, with more than 70 per cent voting in favour of OPIRG in April 2013.
There was speculation in July that Alhattab had been meeting with former CUSA presidents Golovko and Odunayo, both from the ABC slate.
Alhattab denied that he has been meeting with them to discuss the eviction, instead noting “both Odunayo and Golovko are friends.”
Alhattab has been quoted by the Charlatan saying, “We all recognize A Better Carleton has made some mistakes and we all recognize that before them other mistakes have happened. We’re here to clean up, pay the dues that we have, and really move CUSA forward.”
This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol.8, No.1 (Sept 2015).