DAGS considers the options

- December 9, 2008

DAGS has convened a group of grad students to oversee the transition to the house at 1252-54 LeMarchant Street. (Nick Pearce Photo)

With the “best before date” expired on the old Grad House, the university has put two replacement options on the table for the Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students to consider.

In option one, the university offers DAGS the large house at 1252-54 LeMarchant Street for $1 a year. It has also promised minor improvements such as window repairs, plumbing and heating upgrades. With no rent to pay, DAGS could use the rent money it pays now, about $13,000 a year, to invest in the kind of renovations they’d like to see.

In option two, the university provides the LeMarchant Street house to DAGS “as is.” DAGS could then conduct a referendum asking grad students for a fee increase to fund 50 per cent of a comprehensive renovation of the property and the remaining 50 per cent would be provided by the university. Rental fees on the new property would continue.

“These two options are a starting point,” says Marc Braithwaite, executive director of student wellness for Dalhousie. “We see this as a great opportunity for grad students to decide for themselves what the Grad House should be in the years ahead.”

While DAGS president Chris Giacomantonio says option one is “a decent deal,” he’s frustrated that his group and the university have been talking more than six months about a different deal entirely. And he’s worried that the time to stage a referendum has come and gone.

The idea was to take the house and have it extensively renovated as a model of sustainability. While the cost could be steep—anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000—he said the cash-strapped DAGS could offset some of the costs by applying for retrofit grants. He was hoping DAGS could put the proposal before its membership this fall.

But the stumbling block was that the university couldn’t guarantee how long they’d have their new digs, not even for a year, said Mr. Giacomantonio, a master’s student in Sociology and Social Anthropology. He said it just wouldn’t be prudent to invest in the new location without having an idea of how long they’d be there.

The problem is that consultants working on a new campus master plan have identified the site on LeMarchant Street as prime real estate should Dalhousie need to build a new building, such as an athletics facility or a student residence.

“If that’s what happens, great. I don’t want us to be an impediment to that. All we want for sure (is) a space to serve the needs of grad students—social space and quiet space,” says Mr. Giacomantonio. DAGS has convened a group of grads to oversee the transition to the house at 1252-54 LeMarchant Street.  

“What we need from the university is clear terms so that we can plan for our future and our space needs.”


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