Global Lounge undergoing restructuring, programming temporarily paused

The Simon K.Y. Lee Global Lounge and Resource Centre, or the Global Lounge, has been temporarily closed since September 2023. It is set to re-open this term, with changes to programming.

The Global Lounge is located in Marine Drive and is “a space for student-led global, intercultural, and social justice initiatives,” according to its associated webpage. It is home to resources such as the Global Lounge Network, Global Fund and the Tandem Language Learning Exchange program.

While the space is currently available to host booked events, UBC paused regular programming in September without any public communication.

In a written statement to The Ubyssey, Janet Mee, managing director of student affairs, wrote that the Lounge is undergoing restructuring to “best support the needs of international students, while expanding the reach of Student Development and Leadership and International Student Development.”

The Global Fund will now be administered by the Centre for Community Engaged Learning, and will relaunch this term following a review of scope and eligibility criteria last term. UBC is also “developing a new system” in order to relaunch the Tandem Language Exchange.

Many students and alumni have voiced concerns about the temporary closure, especially the lack of transparency around the decision.

“If it wasn't because this person was fired, we wouldn't know the Global Lounge was being restructured,” said Jose Reyeros Sanchez, an undergraduate student and former student employee at the Global Lounge.

Mee wrote that the decision to restructure the programming was based on recommendations from campus-wide expert consultation, as well as discussions with “a group of interested students and alumni” connected to the Global Lounge.

Sanchez said that the only messaging given to the existing Global Lounge community about restructuring was the “firing of a ten-year-long program manager.”

Angelo Aguilo Maurer, another UBC alumnus and former student employee at the Global Lounge, agreed with Sanchez’s statement.

Maurer was one of the students interviewed as part of the consultation process, but he also only found out about the decision to restructure when he “heard from the [former program manager] that she was fired.”

Sanchez criticized the university for its “top-down” approach to the restructure and the lack of “consideration of students' opinions or programs”.

“[We want] transparent and active consultation with all communities,” he said.

Sanchez and Maurer also shared worries that removing programming from Global Lounge makes the feel less accessible. They emphasized the importance of the Global Lounge being a student-run space.

Nana Durowaa, a UBC alumnus and former student employee at the Global Lounge, echoed their sentiments.

“I don't think changing the dynamic is going to make this space feel more open to more people,” Durowaa said.

“This restructuring, to me, feels almost like making the Global Lounge feel like every other space offered at UBC,” she said. “There's a heart and soul to this place. And that heart and soul is of the people building it, the students putting work into this and the student driven nature of the Global Lounge. I think diverting from it is going to take away from that.”

Durowaa, Sanchez and Maurer also stressed the impact of restructuring on the community and connections built over the last ten to fifteen years.

“It was really the only space that was so available and resourceful for international students to exist differently, in a way that they could determine … through [student] Community Animators, and all the kinds of networks that we had set up,” Maurer said.

Durowaa also noted that the restructuring felt “sudden,” and that future plans were not made clear.

“I can see why there's a lot of frustration amongst the students who are in it now. They're like, you know, ‘how am I gonna spend my last year without it?’ And we don't actually know what it's going to look like because we don't have the full information around it,” Durowaa said.

The space will officially re-open early in 2024 as an “informal space for drop-in activities and study sessions,” Mee wrote in the statement. Students can also expect some events planned by the team of International Peer Advisors that work in the space.

— With files from Z. Aazadeh Raja