University opens Vari Hall to wider use by the York community

At a meeting of the Senate of York University on Sept. 25, York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri outlined a series of changes to make Vari Hall more accessible to York community members wishing to set up tables and hold events. 

"I believe the exchange of ideas that happens in Vari Hall is as important as the exchange that happens in our lecture halls, labs and classrooms," Shoukri said in a message to the community the next day. "That’s why we want to make Vari Hall more accessible and available to clubs and groups."

Above: York University’s Vari Hall Rotunda will be opened to bookings for large events and made more accessible to clubs and groups

Effective today, the number of tables in Vari Hall will be increased. Vari Hall will also be made available as a venue for large-scale events and the space will be opened for booking. 

"I hope these changes will help increase dialogue and communication," said Shoukri, noting that the approach to Vari Hall would continue to be fine-tuned. "I am working hard to promote civil discourse and mutual respect at York and I believe Vari Hall is the ideal place for this community to communicate, exchange ideas and opinions – and even debate controversial subjects – in a civil manner, without invective or hostility."

A University information sheet accompanying Shoukri’s message said York has grown significantly over the past several years and any place with fast growth has its challenges. With that growth, there has been an increase in competition for high-traffic space where students, clubs, associations, unions, faculty and staff can share their ideas and points of view, solicit members, provide information and interact with their colleagues in a safe and respectful environment.

Right: President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

There are also times when there is a requirement to hold a major event that would require a majority of the space in the Vari Hall Rotunda. An example of this kind of large-scale event is the highly popular Imaginus Poster Event held by the York Federation of Student (YFS). Large events require significant planning, commitment of time, energy and space and adherence to fire and building codes and regulations. One of the key considerations for the use of the space is the need to maintain adequate pedestrian traffic corridors.

The initiatives that will be implemented on a trial basis for the fall term include:

  • increasing the number of tables in the Vari Rotunda and the link to the Ross Building from the past total of eight to 14, with two tables positioned in the link and up to 12 tables in the Rotunda, of which one table each will be dedicated to YFS and Graduate Student Association (GSA) activities;
  • maintaining the current standard of nine table locations in Central Square and tables each in the Upper and Lower Bear Pits in Central Square (when not in use for special events);
  • reducing the time required for the advanced booking of tables from 10 days to an "as available" basis, although staff would appreciate five days’ lead time, where possible; and
  • allowing for the use of tables at the last minute provided that someone with advanced booking is not displaced. This would be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

As well, major event bookings will require a minimum of 15 days’ notice, with such events limited to a total of 15 days each term to ensure that sufficient tables are available. The deadline for submitting requests for major events for the fall term is Oct. 8. The deadline for the winter term is Dec. 15. The University will also provide for an easy system for hanging signs at table systems to prevent damage of the wood panelling in the Vari Hall Rotunda.

In deference to the classes held near the Vari Rotunda and in consideration of those community members at the tables, the use of amplified sound equipment and megaphones is not allowed.

Space reservations for recognized student groups can be made through the Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development, S172 Ross Building at ext. 55144, or by faxing a request to 416-736-5461

Other groups interested in reserving the space should contact the Office of Temporary Use of University Space, S324 Ross Building at ext. 55513, or by faxing a request to 416-736-5648.

More information on booking guidelines is available on the Temporary Use of Space Web site.