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Outgoing university president Allan Rock talked about on-campus issues, plans going forward Photo: Marta Kierkus

Rock talks lockdown, construction, housing and his retirement plans

University of Ottawa president, Allan Rock, sat down with the Fulcrum at his office in Tabaret Hall to discuss changes made following the Oct. 22, 2014 lockdown, student housing, construction on campus, and his plans once he’s out of a job.

Lockdown one year later

On Oct. 22, 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo before trying to storm Parliament where he was shot by Sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers. Much of downtown, including the U of O, was under lockdown for most of the day. At the time the U of O released a statement saying  “we will do a thorough assessment of our procedures and look at ways to make improvements.”

Rock said they did perform a review of procedures and Protection Services “came forth with a number of recommendations. Some of which have already been acted upon.”

The U of O has already began implementing “widespread training across the campus,” said Rock, for “people in faculties, in the administration and among the student body to prepare them for events that present urgent circumstances.”

The university has also implemented simulations which require evacuation and shutting down buildings—The first of which occurred on Sept. 30. “Every year we’ll be doing that, trying to get people ready and also test our systems.”

Rock says that not everyone knew what was going on last year on Oct. 22.  “Some people were in lockdown and for an extended period they didn’t know what was going on—they didn’t know could they leave, could they stay, were they in danger.”

“I think the major problem of Oct. 22, 2014 was that people were left in the dark,” said Rock. “So we’ve tried really hard to put systems in place that will allow us to share that information more quickly and effectively.”

Construction campus

With the U of O’s rapid growth, construction sites seem to be popping up everywhere on campus.

One particular eyesore on campus, the Faculty of Social Sciences parking lot’s conversion to green spaces, will not be completed until the spring, said Rock. “The most recent prediction is that it will be after the ice and snow melt that we’ll be able to put in the greenery,” he said.

The conversion was originally slated to be completed this fall. Rock said a large conference hosted by the U of O in FSS in May pushed back construction until the summer. “Work did start right after that,” he said, but all kinds of issues have since arisen. “At one point they found an old car.”

Another major project on campus, the new learning centre attached to Lamoureux Hall, is expected to be open by Dec. 2017, and is on time and on budget, said Rock.

Last March the university unveiled ambitious expansion plans, which means the construction crews will be here for a while longer.

Student housing

The U of O is planning to open another new residence on 45 Mann Avenue, this one exclusively for upper-year and graduate students. This residence is the fourth built in two years, after the residences on Rideau Street, Henderson Avenue, and Friel Street.

Not only is the university trying to address the needs of first-year students, but also “the needs of an increasingly diverse student body, international students, a growing cohort of graduate students, married students, as well as students who are here on exchange,” Rock said. “Even visiting professors who come to the campus for three or four months.”

He says they are about to table a new comprehensive housing strategy with the Board of Governors.

On top of plans to build new properties, the university is also planning to rebuild some of the older residences on campus. “You have buildings like Stanton, and Marchand, and LeBlanc…  when I was student here they were new,” said Rock, who graduated from the university in 1971, “and that was way back in the ‘20s.”

“It’s time to replace Stanton, time to replace Marchand, time to replace Leblanc and frankly it’s time to replace the president of the university.”

New president announcement 

Rock, whose eight-year tenure as U of O president ends in June, says we’ll know who his successor is by the end of November. “The selection committee has been working really hard,” he said.

The search was first launched last fall, and the new president will take the reins in January 2016 to allow for a smooth transition.

Rock says he’ll still remain on campus after the 30th president of the U of O takes over.  “Yes, I’m going to go to the law school and teach,” said Rock, who has a law degree from the university and held numerous portfolios under Jean Chrétien.

“But I have to take some time first to learn something I can teach,” said the former Justice Minister and Attorney General.