Starting school at a construction site campus

Photo: Kim Wiens

The first weeks of school are upon us. Campus is crowded, the weather is nice, and the air is filled with the rumble of bulldozers and the clanging of hammers—sounds that are all too familiar to University of Ottawa students.

For the second year in a row, school is starting and the multiple construction projects on campus are nowhere near completion. From the new residence on Henderson, to the Learning Centre by Lamoureux Hall, to the giant hole that used to be the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS) parking lot, nothing is done yet. The lawn outside of Tabaret Hall was under construction for most of last year, and had to be closed and renovated again after it had opened because trucks were driven on it too early.

We all know that construction is necessary and that the campus will be better for it in the long run, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with how it’s currently being carried out. The university administration has four months when the campus is relatively quiet and devoid of student life to do all of its construction, or at least get started on it.

Instead however they graciously wait until classes are only weeks away to begin. The construction in the FSS parking lot has only been underway since August and is supposed to be hosting an inagural ‘UO Show’ on Sept. 10. The unforeseen benefit of the lack of urgency in construction is that that everyone can experience the great inconvenience of living and studying in a construction site.

Students understand that some projects take more than four months to complete, but the time line for many of these projects is just ridiculous. In the case of the FSS parking lot project, which will turn the former concrete into green space, construction is set to be done just in time for snow. After enduring inconveniences in the summer, students will undoubtedly enjoy a new green space that’s somewhere, beneath a foot of snow.

What kind of message is this sending to new students at the university? These students show up and see nothing but construction projects until it’s too cold to go outside and enjoy any of the finished works—assuming they’re even done by then. Once the weather warms up, most students have about a month and a half of decent weather to enjoy a new campus while finding time to prepare for final exams.

The real problem here is that by leaving construction until the last minute the university looks lazy and disorganized. The timeline for these projects and the lack of urgency in their schedule shows that the administration wants to use the chaos of construction as an advertising tool to welcome students of the future, and to seem like a growing institution.

After the unveiling of the future renovation master plans in April, the sad reality is that this is likely the future of campus for most of the next decade. The ambitious plans forecast another 20 years of construction, demolition, and landscaping on campus.

Even if some of the projects proposed in this plan are abandoned, it’s likely that students will continue to spend much of their time sharing campus with construction crews for the foreseeable future.