No plans to alleviate classroom crunch

By Darlene Seto

Crowded hallways, packed classrooms and shared offices and research labs seem to be the norm at the University of Calgary. No longer a lowly outpost of the University of Alberta, the U of C today is a strong vibrant community just under 30,000 strong. That large population explains why the university operates at 120 per cent capacity, a fact readily admitted by administration.

“There are significant needs,” admitted Vice-President of Finance and Services, Michael McAdam. “There is enormous demand for undergrad teaching laboratories, classrooms with better technology, and general building up grades.”

Space is an issue at the university, with many departmental business plans identifying an urgent need. New students and faculty alike are sharing space, particularly in junior level sections. Restrictions on enrolment, due to a lack of human and physical resources, force qualified students away from first-choice programs.

McAdam stressed that there are three new projects to increase space, all of which are capital priorities for the university. Those projects include a new Campus Calgary Digital Library, with plans to build by the existing MacKimmie Library Block. The goal of this digital enterprise is to add much needed communication infrastructure for students. Improvements in technology will allow access to any educational institute in North America from the library.

The next two priorities present future, rather than present opportunities for students. A building for the newly created Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy is planned, as well as beginning work on the downtown campus.

It seems approval by the provincial government–with the accompanying capital funds–is the final requirement needed for this work to commence.

“We have sent in our submissions [for these projects] to Alberta Learning and Alberta Infrastructure,” continued McAdam. “We’re in the waiting game.”

U of C Director of Infrastructure, Steven Dantzer echoed the sentiment for Alberta government funding.

“There is a lot of deferred maintenance,” said Dantzer. “We receive one grant from Alberta Infrastructure to conduct yearly maintenance on our buildings. This isn’t sufficient.”

In particular, the science buildings, including Biological Science, Math Science, Science Theatres and Science A and B desperately need renovations to more effectively use space.

Land certainly is not lacking. The university owns the main and West Campus in entirety, as well as the McMahon Stadium area and the south campus in Health Sciences by the Foothills Medical Centre.

On West Campus alone, lie 74 hectares of open space. Yet the only construction there is the new Alberta Children’s Hospital, to be completed in 2005. A park around the building is another development with a schedule for completion.

Auxiliary projects to increase space are on hold. Residence housing and new parking are not planned for another 10 years, bad news for students complaining that parking lots are filling early in the morning. Alternative transportation will be promoted by adding more bike lockers on campus.

Many students are unable to see light at the end of the tunnel.

“The thing that always gets me is that Calgary is a focal financial and economic hub,” commented Dale Reznik, a fourth-year economics student. “There are many resources in this city, yet the instruction and core facilities at our university suffer.”

It seems that until there is an increase in funding, the overwhelming majority of undergraduate students can expect more of the space crunch.

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