The Student Guild will no longer manage gown hiring for QUT graduation ceremonies, after the university decided not to offer the union the chance to bid for the contract.
The Guild has continuously operated the gown hiring service for over 30 years and has routinely hired students to help run the service during graduation periods.
A spokesperson from the university stated that QUT is looking for a contractor who could provide an “all-encompassing service”, and not just gown hire, which was why the Guild was not invited to tender for the contract.
“QUT is committed to delivering an enhanced graduation experience for our students with the delivery of a comprehensive package of services to include registration, ticketing, academic dress hire, and photography through a single provider.”
However, a spokesperson from the Guild stated they were more than willing to expand their offerings to include a more comprehensive service, but QUT still did not allow them to bid for the contract.
If the Guild is willing to expand their services, this begs the question as to why the University would not allow them to bid, instead seeking expressions of interest from outside businesses.
This news comes just two weeks after the Student Representative Council were told that the Guild was losing the General Store and post office, located at Kelvin Grove campus.
Euan Tiernan, the undergraduate representative on QUT Council, told the SRC at the January council meeting that the University had drastically increased the rent for the space and that an EzyMart would be taking over.
“I know that [the Guild’s] leases are increasing about by about 150%… I know the lease for the General Store is being hired out by EzyMart,” Tiernan said.
“I can tell you, [the University] don’t want the Guild stronger and bigger and better, and that’s why they’re taking these actions.”
A spokesperson from the University did not confirm Tiernan’s claims, but stated they are currently seeking expressions of interest from other businesses in relation to the General Store and post office space.
They also said that the rent has not yet increased, but will be reviewed as part of the “normal” process.
“The University recognises and values the important role the QUT Guild plays in activating our campus for students and visitors alike and has provided more than 800m² of university space at a nominal rate for the Guild’s service delivery activities,” a spokesperson from QUT said.
“The need to deliver coordinated and integrated experiences, and quality services that both attract and meet the expectations of the wider community, necessarily requires the University to look beyond the QUT Guild to the open market when required.”
Glass can confirm the current lease has expired and the rent has not yet increased, but the proposed future rent for the space has increased by over 100%. A spokesperson from the Guild said they are willing to pay this increased amount to keep these businesses on campus.
As a non-profit student union, the Guild has historically employed current QUT students to work at the General Store and uses the money made by this business to invest back into the Guild and, therefore, students.
A spokesperson from QUT stated that the University supports the employment of students by service providers, where possible and appropriate. However, as Glass understands they cannot mandate that a for-profit company must employ students, which means there is a chance the current workers will lose their jobs if this change occurs.
Guild President Aaron Bui said that while this situation is not ideal, the Guild wants to ensure that the professional staff and casual student workers affected are represented in the best possible way. He confirmed his commitment to working with the university to ensure students are provided with services they need and require.
He also stated that he believes the Guild should have a strong physical presence on campus.
“As the very body that represents and advocates for students, I believe the Guild should have more presence (and with that, spaces) around campus, rather than less. If we look over to UQ, they have an entire area [on campus] dedicated to their student union. Ideally, that’s where we would like to get to eventually.”
Board member and former Guild President Olivia Brumm said that the Guild prioritises students and their needs and will continue to do so.
“The primary objective for the Guild when providing services on campus is that students come first. We operate all our outlets with the interests of students at the forefront and look forward to continuing to work with QUT in this regard.”
The Student Guild also run the bars on campus; the Grove Bar at Kelvin Grove and the Botanic Bar at Gardens Point. These venues have spaces that can be hired out for free by any student during normal operating times, which are Monday to Friday. Clubs can also hire the bars for a discounted rate on weekends.
The leases for the bars are due to expire in November 2024, so we will see if those rents are also doubled or whether the university allows the Guild to bid for those spaces once again.