The University of Glasgow’s guidelines for room bookings have made it more difficult for student clubs and societies to book a room in a University-owned building in order to hold a meeting or event.
The Estates and Buildings service, which is responsible for administering the University Estate and which manages room bookings, has limited the number of buildings and hours at which aDav SRC-affiliated society can request to use a room free of charge without consulting the SRC on the changes.
Last October, at least 14 buildings were available from 8am to 11.30pm without any notice on possible costs being applied, while the Estates and Buildings webpage currently says that only the Boyd Orr, the Adam Smith and the Saint Andrews building may be used for free.
Restrictions have also being imposed on the hours at which a club or society may use the buildings. Booking must now be made “after core teaching hours”, with the permitted timetable now running from 5pm to 9.30pm from Monday to Thursday, except for the Boyd Orr Building which may be used on Fridays from 5pm to 8.30pm.
Although the room hire policy approved by the University Secretary of Court says that SRC affiliated societies organising free events for their members in teaching spaces will not be charged, the Estates and Buildings service warns that any booking outwith these buildings and hours will be liable to “janitorial overtime charges and other potential costs”.
Societies have already faced the costs that trying to book a room outside the allowed buildings entails. Glasgow Guardian has had access to the proposed fees that were offered to the Glasgow University Climate Action society after the society asked to hold their ‘2014 Matters: Energy, Environment and Climate Change’ event in the Sir Charles Wilson Building on University Avenue. The event was funded by ‘Stop Climate Chaos Scotland’,a coalition of organisations campaigning against climate change and was therefore viewed by the Conference & Visitor Services Office as an external event. Instead of being charged £136.50 plus VAT for janitorial costs when using a building outwith opening hours, the society was going to be charged the standard cost for holding a conference: £985 plus VAT.
The breakdown of the price included charges of £19.20 for using a laser pointer, £76.80 for the projector plus £10 for delivery and added up to £1200 in total. Eventually, the event moved to another venue.
Lucy Bretelle, the member of the society who tried to make the booking told the Glasgow Guardian: “They were really not clear in their messages and not helpful. Basically, they just wanted us to pay a large amount of money: £1200 in total and £100 just to use Wi-fi, which was ridiculous considering we were a society of the University organising an event to which VIPs were invited (for example, the SNP Minister for Environment and Climate Change) in collaboration with an external organisation. They were just really bad at communicating with students which is quite a problem as they work with students.”
Discussing how they eventually booked a venue for the event, Bretelle said: “A week before the event things were getting urgent. So I decided to call them and get things sorted out. Of course, the Charles Wilson Building had been booked and was no longer available. They offered the Western Infirmary which was perfect, but we still had to pay £500! Moreover, if they had offered the Western Infirmary earlier, I wouldn’t have gone through all that stress. Anyway, the event happened and everything was okay in the end.”
Another issue that has affected clubs and societies when trying to find a venue for their activities has been this year’s overcrowding on campus. The dance society Dancemania, for example, had to leave the gym of the Saint Andrews building where it usually rehearsed to move to the QMU since the Saint Andrews building space was being converted into a teaching venue.
SRC Vice-President for Student Activities and President-elect Breffni O’Connor, who included dealing with room booking restrictions in her recent manifesto, said: “Clubs and Societies affiliated to the SRC are at a huge disadvantage due to the restrictions placed on them by the University which is now placing severe restrictions on their events and activities. Charging for room bookings can mean that many are missing out on getting involved at University due to events being cancelled. It’s ironic that a university that seems to place a lot of emphasis on the student experience seems to be doing its best to undermine it in so many ways.”
O’Connor also commented on the restrictions to bake sales or other events that a society can perform on campus, which have been reduced to one per society per semester: “Limiting each club/society to one stall on campus per semester means that they may not obtain the funds or publicity needed to carry out their activities effectively. A lack of funding can also put an extra demand on the money we, the SRC, allocate to clubs/societies each year.”
She also complained about the lack of response that the SRC has received from the University: “Unfortunately there has been little discussion between the University and the SRC both on the implementation of these rules and the effect it will have on students.”
A University spokesperson explained the situation to the Glasgow Guardian: “Space is at a premium within the University and requests for teaching space must always take priority, but we endeavour to accommodate all requests from student societies. However, the large number of societies and level of requests means we can’t always meet everyone’s requirements but the majority of requests are met.”
The University also insisted that the guidelines for room bookings had not been changed and that the current guidelines are those that should have previously applied. .
SRC officers have told the Glasgow Guardian that several events have been saved from cancellation thanks to the services offered by the student unions. Both the QMU and GUU offer rooms for meetings of affiliated societies without the restrictions of University-managed buildings and with the added bonus of quicker responses than those made to requests through Estates and Buildings, where the waiting time before being allocated a room is usually three to four days.
The SRC also pointed out that not all the changes introduced in the room booking policies have had a negative impact on societies. For example, the policy regarding the number of society members entitled to request a room has been extended from one to three, believing that administrative procedures are shortened if more than one person is authorised to book a room.