Finding Commons ground

Plans to create a new Student Commons by redeveloping the patio area adjoining the MacEwan Student Centre are slowly gathering pace.

Although still in the planning stage, an engineering report has been completed and members of the SU executive are confident ground will be broken by April 30, 2005 before current officials leave office.

“We have secured the funds, have agreement from the university and are now just finalizing things with all of our stakeholders to make sure we achieve a result best for us all,” said SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Joel Lockwood. “We’re consulting with relevant parties such as the Graduate Students’ Association before we move ahead with the design of the space.”

Lockwood said the SU has support not only from the university, who agreed to construction, but also from the GSA­–considered a stakeholder because the new space will adjoin their lounge and possibly anchor to it structurally.

“It can only be positive for us,” said GSA VP Operations and Finance Ian Graham. “We are involved only on a consultative basis, but feel any increase in space will benefit both undergraduate and graduate students alike.”

However, not everyone agrees with the idea of removing the patio space and creating a new indoor structure.

“This is probably to get rid of smokers,” said third year science student Samantha Miller. “The university should be trying to encourage us to go outside, not stay indoors.”

Other students echoed her sentiments. Some concerns were raised as to where students would go with the patio removed. Others still, felt the money would be better utilized elsewhere.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” said SU Faculty of Science Representative Fatima Nasser. “The resources should be spent somewhere more useful for the students. There is already a lack of outdoor space for students to enjoy.”

The SU canvassed student opinion through its plebiscite in last year’s general election.

“We are aware that during the summer people like to feel the fresh air,” said SU President Bryan West. “We are considering a variety of designs including an idea that part of the windows or roof of the building will open, so that students can feel the benefit of the air outside during the summer. The space does sit empty for much of the year though, because most of the students are here during winter when the weather is often too cold to use it.”

Other opposition to the project came initially from student representatives who had their own ideas about where student money should be spent. The Student Legislative Council eventually approved the plan, and the SU was clear that it wasn’t going to cost students anything to complete the project.

“The first part of the funding, around $340,000, comes from the quality money given to us by the university,” said West. “The remainder comes from the SU Operations Reserve Fund, set up in 1999, into which we put 10 per cent of the SU budget each year. We use the funds for occasions such as this one.”

The plan fits the current U of C wish to increase the amount of student space on campus, and should ease crowding in MSC.

“It’s difficult to find space to sit in MSC,” said third year biological science student Colin Kinjo. “It will be good to see our money going to something useful and visible. If it were more aesthetically pleasing that would be even better. The current grey and brown motif is not to my taste.”

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