Opinions

The university has taken on $200 million in debt to pay for buildings, and that’s a good thing. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

The university has work to do, and construction is a step in the right direction

If you haven’t heard, the University of Ottawa will be taking on $200 million in debt to pay for upcoming construction projects on campus, like the new science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) building and the Learning Centre. That might be a lot of money, but there isn’t a lot of space left on campus—with that in mind, updating our buildings is a sensible use of funds.

For one thing, there are way too many buildings on campus that are simply too small or too old, and this has a very real negative impact on the student experience on our campus. Yet, some members of the Board of Governors claim that the university is “putting buildings before students,” and that simply isn’t the case.

MacDonald Hall, former home of the Department of Physics, is being torn down at the end of the month to make way for a new STEM building. MacDonald was built in the early 60s, back when the student population was a quarter of the size it is now. It’s about time that it went, and hopefully in its place there will be more places for students to study, learn, and even hang out.

The same goes for the Learning Centre, which should be a much-needed boost to the student experience. And even though it didn’t live up to the hype, the University Square is still a massive improvement over the ugly parking lot that it once was.

This is also true for all the other buildings on campus that just don’t meet the needs of a 21st century university of over 40,000 students, like the University Centre, Brooks Residence, and the entire stretch of buildings along King Edward Avenue.

New buildings are indeed necessary on campus, and they should be a priority.

With that being said, new buildings  aren’t enough by themselves. There needs to be more thorough consultations with students on what they need and want from these new facilities. The new buildings also have to be designed with students in mind and need to include modern classrooms, plenty of student space, space for services, and maybe even businesses.

Think, for instance, of the university bookstore’s monopoly on campus. Allowing for the building of additional bookstores on campus would create competition and lead to lower-priced textbooks, which would save students quite a lot of money. It also wouldn’t hurt for the university to focus on the never-ending tuition hikes, and hiring more part-time profs. That being said, new buildings are a concrete step in the right direction.

The construction, however inconvenient, is necessary, and the university should be applauded for trying to improve our campus’ infrastructure. However, that construction needs to be done with more student input, since there are just so many other areas in which the university isn’t putting students first.