Feds’ role in Schembri situation

<em>In an ongoing blog series,&nbsp;</em>Imprint<em>&nbsp;poses a question relevant to on-campus politics, activities, and student life. A&nbsp;</em>Feds<em>&nbsp;representative(s) will answer in detail. If you have a question, send it to blogs@imprint.uwaterloo.ca. This week:&nbsp;What is Feds doing to represent students affected by Schembri&#39;s unfinished property?&nbsp;Feds VP Internal Maaz Yasin and VP Education Stephane Hamade answer.</em>

As you might have read in the Sept. 26 issue of <em>Imprint</em>, many UW students have been affected by the housing delay at One Columbia by Schembri Property Management. Despite it being October, the situation has unfortunately not improved.

As your student union, we at Feds have taken a number of steps to try to mitigate the situation and let Schembri know that students are united in their disapproval of the way the tenants of One Columbia have been treated. As soon as we became aware of the situation, we contacted Gordon Schembri, the owner of the company that owns the One Columbia building. We expressed our concern that students had been given very little notice of a major delay. We also pointed out that the alternative accommodations his company was providing were insufficient. Finally, we made it clear to him that the best course of action from the students&rsquo; point of view was for them to be let out of their leases, and that this was the fairest course of action given that the company had failed to uphold their end of the lease.

Mr. Schembri expressed disinterest in pursuing this option. We warned him that this would cause a great deal of outrage amongst the affected student tenants. In response, Mr. Schembri mentioned that he was not concerned about backlash and that he had not lost a landlord-tenant dispute in the past. &nbsp;

The next day, we joined UW Off Campus Housing in hosting an information session where Waterloo Community Legal Services was invited to help guide the affected tenants to next steps. We continued working with Off Campus Housing in the following days in supporting any affected students.

On September 19, I (Maaz) attended a march organized by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG) to show solidarity with the affected students. Two days later, Stephane brought a motion to Feds&rsquo; Students Council calling for an end to all business dealings with Schembri and tasking the executives to write an open letter to the company on behalf of students. It passed unanimously.

Two days later, at a Feds Board of Directors meeting, the executives backed up what Council had decided and formally voted to terminate Schembri&#39;s ability to book space in the SLC and sponsor Feds&rsquo; events. Schembri and Feds had agreed to enter a Welcome Week sponsorship contract back in July. Feds will not consider doing this anymore.

Stephane also met with MPP Catherine Fife and brought the situation to her attention. She said that her office is open for affected tenants to come and seek advice about their options.

Over the next few days, I (Maaz) will be reaching out to the Laurier Students&rsquo; Union to identify ways our student unions&rsquo; can continue to better support the students affected by this situation.

If you are a student and are affected by the Schembri housing situation, please contact one of us and we will be happy to do our best to help you.

Your Feds execs,

Maaz Yasin (VP Internal), vpin@feds.ca

Stephane Hamade (VP Education), vped@feds.ca