The Grind, the McMaster Students Union-run cafe that was added to TwelvEighty in February 2018, has been churning out more cash than its bar and grill counterpart.
According to a report written by Daniel “Tuba” D’Souza, MSU vice president (Finance), to the Student Representative Assembly, the Grind has been earning an average of $1,000 per day. The cafe is expected to increase TwelvEighty’s revenue by 22 per cent and reduce the overall deficit by approximately $100,000 for the upcoming academic year.
“The success of the Grind shows that the student demographic is changing. For the first time in MSU history we will have sold more coffee than alcohol,” read part of the report. “This is something that needs to be seriously considered when looking at the future of TwelvEighty.”
According to D’Souza, universities and colleges across North America have witnessed a similar trend as pubs and bars languish in popularity.
“Today’s students are burdened with debt and are selective of how they spend their money, prioritizing experiences and quality over quantity,” said D’Souza, who believes that campus club culture is not dying, but transforming as students become more conscientious of how and when they spend money on alcohol.
“For the first time in MSU history we will have sold more coffee than alcohol.”
Daniel “Tuba” D’Souza
Vice president (Finance)
McMaster Students Union
D’Souza notes that events such as Homecoming, Light Up The Night and club nights continue to reach maximum capacity, reflecting a continued interest in club culture.
“That volume isn’t replicable throughout the year. From conversations with club promotion companies and past bar owners in the area, students are busy and prioritize school over entertainment more than in past years,” he said.
The Grind’s financial success is also a byproduct of the increasing use of coffee shops as study spaces. In light of the high demand for seating at the Grind, D’Souza has proposed the allocation of funds to renovate the dance floor and staging area of TwelvEighty to expand the cafe.
The proposal still has to be approved by the incoming Student Representative Assembly, and the nuances of it will depend on the plans of next year’s leadership and TwelvEighty’s management.
“TwelvEighty is currently our biggest cost centre but will show marked improvements with the addition of the Grind,” read part of the report.
In his report, D’Souza suggests that TwelvEighty should focus on improving its serving style, menu options, use of technology, ease of ordering and marketing strategy. However, in the report, he does not elaborate on what he means by these areas of improvement.
In his year-plan, D’Souza sought to implement an online ordering system for TwelvEighty. Nevertheless, this promise was abandoned as feasibility and logistical issues emerged in the fall of 2017. Whether or not D’Souza seeks to reintroduce this proposal remains unclear.
What is clear, however, is that the Grind is expected to compensate, at least in part, for TwelvEighty’s lack of profit.
During the cafe’s trial period, which occurred before the Grind officially opened for service, feedback forms were released to students. The main demands were for milk substitutes, which are now available at no cost, and increased seating capacity.
“Currently students love the food options, fresh baked scones and cookies, and the daily crepe specials,” said D’Souza. “With its booming success this year the future of the Grind looks bright with students already asking to expand the space more into TwelvEighty.”
By: Tanoy Biswas
As students continue to grind out their schoolwork at McMaster University, the newest hot food and beverage café on campus, the Grind, is just beginning its service to the university population.
The McMaster Student Union vice president (Finance), Daniel “Tuba” D’Souza, along with other MSU staff members, collaborated to address the lack of quick and affordable hot food on campus through the café.
“The initial proposal for the café was made back in May 2017 when the new student union board of directors officially stepped into office Through working with the Student Representative Assembly, the TwelvEighty management team and Facility Services we approved a budget to hire an architect managed the construction project, and built the café,” said D’Souza.
The MSU took a methodical approach when planning the café to ensure that it offered more affordable food options on campus. In the summer of 2017, the MSU consulted with facility services and student focus groups to get a better understanding of the kind of food items that satisfy a student appetite.
“As we receive more input from students during the soft launch we can further craft the menu to meet the expectations of students for quick, affordable, healthy food.”
MSU vice president (Finance)
“The price of food in the café was designed with affordability in mind. The café offers a range of crepes at different price points depending on what a student is able to afford,” said D’Souza.
Located in the basement of the student centre right next to TwelvEighty, the Grind offers sweet and savoury crepes ranging from $3.99 to $9.99, and hot caffeinated beverages including mochas, cappuccinos and more ranging from $1.50 to $3.00.
“Our prices were based on over 70 anonymous feedback forms we received during our trial period where students were able to write down what price they would pay for the crepe that they received,” D’Souza said.
“As we receive more input from students during the soft launch we can further craft the menu to meet the expectations of students for quick, affordable, healthy food,” he added.
Additionally, the MSU conducted research for the ideal design features students prefer in a café, which included lighting, seating arrangements, power outlets and the overall aesthetic design.
Construction of the café occurred during the first semester of the 2017-2018 school year and the hiring and training of staff along with the branding of the establishment was finalized in the first half of January 2018.
The café was built in the existing space of TwelvEighty but it is its own entity. The staff of the new establishment includes a few employees from TwelvEighty but the majority of workers are new hires.
The employees were trained by a specialist to learn how to operate the new machinery needed to make espresso and its associated drinks. Additionally, chefs from the TwelvEighty staff trained new employees on how to make crepes for the café.
Inside the Grind, the layout includes multiple seating spaces in a well-lit area to accommodate a variety of uses such as studying or more casual uses.
The Grind has held limited runs throughout January meant for some MSU staff members to give feedback. The soft launch was held on Jan. 29, and the grand opening is expected to be in February after the reading week break.
It took 22 hours for the Student Representative Assembly to elect this year’s MSU vice-presidents– a meeting that might not happen next year if some students have their way.
Though there is almost unanimous consensus that the VP electoral system is flawed, exactly how the system should be reformed is a divisive topic that led to the creation of a VP Electoral Reform Ad Hoc committee.
“The way VPs are elected at the moment needs to change,” said Ehima Osazuwa, MSU President. But whether that change should be determined by a small committee of student leaders or go directly to referendum will be decided by the ad hoc committee.
A surprise motion was brought forward by SRA Social Science Representative Eric Gillis at the General Assembly on March 23, 2015 to hold a referendum for students to decide whether or not they want to elect the Vice Presidents, or want the SRA to continue to elect them. Although this motion passed, there were not enough people for quorum to be reached, meaning the SRA has the discretion to vote on it.
26 days after General Assembly, and a day before the vote on whether or not to have a referendum was held, the Speaker of the SRA ruled this motion out of order in a last minute email sent to SRA members. A Facebook event aiming to engage students at this meeting hosted public outcry and claims of a deliberate attempt to prevent the vote from happening.
Instead, the SRA passed a motion to create an ad hoc VP reform committee which will recommend what the SRA will vote on in Fall 2015. “Talking to a lot of SRA members they were either not comfortable performing the vote or they did not want the vote to happen at all.” said Shaarujaa Nadarajah, SRA member and member of the committee. She explained that SRA members were uncomfortable with voting on a referendum without the nuances of how the referendum would be framed.
The official document states “the recommendations shall include a formal proposal for a referendum, with an official breakdown of ballot options.”
The first meeting will be on June 7 at 2 p.m. in the MSU Boardroom and anyone interested is welcome to attend, although the Speaker and Chair of the committee, Inna Berditchevskaia, asks interested students to arrive five minutes early.
Osazuwa describes the purpose of the committee to elaborate on what options a potential referendum should include. “[The purpose is] to give students choices, because the current motion put forward didn’t have any choices,” said Osazuwa.
"I joined [the committee] because I was frustrated throughout this entire movement that people were making these sweeping generalizations about what students wanted" - Connor McGee, MSU committee member
Although, Osazuwa admitted that whether or not this referendum will happen is still unclear.
“The job of the committee is to decide whether it should go to referendum or not,” said Osazuwa.
“If students want it to go to referendum then it should go to referendum.” When asked if he anticipates students will want a referendum, he said yes.
However, critics of the committee wonder whether it is representative of the student body or simply of the “MSU bubble”.
“The committee is open to every single person so anyone can come” said Osazuwa. He says it’s important to represent the 22,000+ members of McMaster.
Others question whether the students at GA and those involved in the public outcry were representative of the student body. “I joined [the committee] because I was frustrated throughout this entire movement that people were making these sweeping generalizations about what students wanted,” said Connor McGee, MSU member on the committee.
The committee was selected during exam time and the MSU members on the committee were all acclaimed. It has been brought up that maybe because it fell during the exam period, it was difficult for students to come out to SRA meetings.
“People could have made themselves available and been nominated beforehand or have their speech read,” said McGee.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the MSU bubble representing itself,” said McGee. He also says there might be a self-selection bias in who joins the committee. “In a lot of cases it makes sense that an SRA member, or former SRA member or someone like that, would have an interest and more thorough understanding of what the position entails.”
A separate criticism is that this committee is redundant with work that has been done before.
“The committee itself, I understand why it was struck, but honestly, the democratic reform committee has existed in 2012 and 2013 from my understanding and did similar research to this committee, so I don’t think it will come up with anything new” said Sara Jama, SRA member on the committee.
The committee and its research will certainly contribute to the discussion on electoral reform and how students perceive the MSU. “Beyond VPs this is also a great opportunity to talk to students about the MSU,” said McGee.
However, it remains to be seen whether this committee will serve to perpetuate the status quo or create meaningful change.
Given the divisive nature of the topic, it is also unclear whether it will be productive.
“If someone’s personal bias does start to get in the way, I think that would obviously jeopardize the findings and entire point and integrity of having this ad-hoc committee. So in that case, I think it’s safe to say some kind of action would be taken,” said McGee. “There’s no point in having a committee if you’re purposely going to skew the results.”
“I see it as a stalling mechanism, but hopefully good discussion will come out of the committee itself,” said Jama.
Three people will join MSU President-elect Teddy Saull on the MSU’s Board of Directors next year. Vice-Presidents will be elected by the Student Representative Assembly at the meeting on Sunday, April 6; one for finance, education and administration.
While any full-time student may attend the meeting and run for a position on the Board of Directors, the members of the SRA also have to power to nominate individuals to run for the positions.
Traditionally, these nominees are seen as favoured to win the jobs but a student from outside of the Assembly, technically, have an equal shot.
Elected Vice-Presidents work full-time for the MSU on a 12-month contract and, therefore, must be graduating students or be willing to take a year off from school.
Below are the nominees from the SRA meeting on March 30:
Daniel D’Angela: SRA Social Sciences, MSU Finance
Inemesit Etokudo: Maroons Coordinator
Scott Mallon: Former SRA Commerce, Finance Committee member
Jacob Klugsberg: MSU Teaching Awards Coordinator, Advocacy External Coordinator
Rodrigo Narro Perez: SRA Science, University Affairs Commissioner
Jacob Brodka: SRA Science. MSU Services Commissioner, Maroons Public Relations Coordinator
Aaron Morrow: SRA Science, Executive Board member
The MSU, a multi-million dollar organization, is responsible for maintaining a number of services and organizations across campus, which is done through the accumulation of student fees from each full-time undergrad. It collects additional funds through its businesses, including Union Market and the Underground.
“KPMG combed through all the financials of the past twelve months,” explained MSU VP (Finance) Jeff Doucet of the process. The external auditing firm was called in, as part of standard procedure, to assess the organization’s financial health.
The audits were publicly released at the end of October and were put up for discussion at a meeting of the Student Representative Assembly on Nov. 3. Representatives took the opportunity to pick through the details of the reports, asking questions of the VP Finance before ultimately voting to approve the documents.
The MSU finished the 2012-13 academic year with a surplus of more than $300,000. While this represents only about three per cent of the MSU’s operating budget of $12,235,578, as a registered not-for-profit organization it is meant to be completely revenue neutral.
Doucet acknowledged the need for a plan for the extra money, as recommended by the external auditors.
“We need an actual capital growth plan. That’s a plan we don’t necessarily have right now,” he said.
While the organization as a whole ran a surplus for the year, certain services within the MSU saw a deficit in 2012-13, among them the Emergency First Response Team, the McMaster dental plan, and Compass Information Service.
Compass, for example, saw a drop in revenue of about $600,000 and ran an overall deficit of $30,486.
“GO Transit has moved to Presto cards, which is very convenient for students, but obviously it’s resulted in less revenue for Compass—when we sell tickets at Compass we’re earning a percentage of revenue,” explained Doucet.
On the other hand, McMaster’s campus radio station, CFMU, finished the year with a surplus of $193,785, a significant portion of the organization’s revenue, most of which comes from a portion of student fees. However, McMaster students voted in January 2013 to decrease the levy given to CFMU from $17.45 per student to $12.50, which is buy viagra soft tabs expected to eliminate the large surplus in future.
The results of the audit are publicly available, accessible on the MSU website.