Say what you will about my looks or my personality, but my eyesight is perfect.

And even if I did need to visit an optometrist from time to time, I wouldn’t need to go far. There’s one on King Street, just across from the Metro in Westdale.

So what gives, MUSC?

After all the talk about what would replace the vacant storefront in the student centre between Union Market and the University Centre Pharmacy, the McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC) Board of Management has given the space to an optometrist.

The decision was a big missed opportunity.

Other schools are doing some really cool things with their student spaces, and, from what I’ve heard, there was no shortage of ideas on what we could do with the open space next to the pharmacy. There was talk of coffee shops, restaurants, lounge spaces, student services and, of course, a grocery store.

But instead, we’re getting an eye doctor – someone students might visit only from time to time, and that’s if they don’t continue seeing their previous optometrists during their visits home.

In other words, we’ll be left with that lonely and lacklustre stretch of hallway between La Piazza and Union Market.

I understand the financial argument; it’s true that sending an in-house service into MUSC’s potential retail space is a risk. But why sign a third-party business for the sake of bringing in revenue if we’re just going to sink that revenue into underexposed services?

The House of Games, SWHAT, SHEC, SCSN, Avtek, Maroons, Campus Events and Underground Media & Design (and, for that matter, the Silhouette) are among the MSU services pushed out of sight into the upper or lower floors of MUSC, not to mention organizations like SOCS, the Off-Campus Resource Centre and the Centre for Student Development.

Even TwelvEighty, our should-be-‘place-to-be’ student-run bar couldn’t make it into a decent location. (I never did like the idea of getting a beer just down the hall from my calculus tutorial.) It’s no wonder that it hasn’t been able to make the MSU money like the Rathskeller and the Downstairs John used to.

But if it’s going to be a third-party vendor that gets the spot, at least it should have been something of wider and more regular use. For the record, I would have loved to see a fresh produce seller like Grocery Checkout pop up.

There are student representatives on MUSC’s management board for a reason. McMaster’s full-time students, through their MSU fees, have paid a lot of money for the construction of the student centre. Whether it’s a service of the University or the MSU, or an outside vendor, decisions on who gets to set up shop in our student space should be purposeful and in our best interests.

So rather than allowing dentists and eye doctors and photo studios to populate the prime real estate, let’s make this building work for us.


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