Arts reps hope for new faculty lounge

The new amalgamated faculty of arts at the University of Calgary was established months ago, but to several students the change was in name only.

Students’ Union representatives from the faculty are trying to change that by proposing a new lounge dedicated to arts student use.

“I personally believe having a common lounge space really allows people to go in and feel like they’re a part of something greater,” said Vincent St. Pierre, one the arts representatives most involved with the project.

His fellow arts representative Laura Golebiowski agreed that many students in the faculty don’t feel connected to each other in what is now the largest body of undergraduates at the U of C.

“It’s just another facet of getting a tangible thing out there,” said Golebiowski. “So many changes have been largely on an administrative level and there hasn’t been all that much messaging of the tangible effects of the faculty of arts.”

The goal is to situate the lounge on the first floor of the social sciences building in the space previously occupied by the First Cup coffee shop.

Associate arts dean Geoffrey Simmins is responsible for infrastructure planning in the faculty. He is aiding the students in their goal of a faculty of arts lounge– a location he said is needed.

“It’s really important, we’ve got 7,000 students,” said Simmins. “We’ve got all kinds of diverse activities, we want to have a spot that’s in the middle of campus where the students can come together.”

St. Pierre listed the goals of the new lounge as a general meeting space for students, a presentation space for small groups and as branding for the new arts faculty.

The representatives have seen support from administration as well. St. Pierre said the possibility of a student lounge was discussed before the merger.

“The social sciences faculty tried to get an actual lounge for students over the last 20 years,” he said. “That kind of never went anywhere.”

Simmins said the reason the project took so long might be because no one identified the former coffee shop as a possibility before. Now that the four faculties have amalgamated, there are more locations to choose from to host the lounge.

The arts representatives said they were approached by faculty members thinking about adding a lounge area, but didn’t have the funds necessary for the renovations.

“It was really remarkable timing when we picked this up,” said Golebiowski. “The faculty was actually thinking along the same lines as this. They had been making movement on it in their own way. It was nice they reached out to us.”

St. Pierre said he received support from the faculty and now is waiting for quality money funding approval from the SU to move forward. St. Pierre said the cost of the project could be anywhere from $7,000-$59,000.

“I want it to be on the higher end of that so that we can afford some kind of actual refurbishing of the space because as it currently stands, it’s 1970s plywood and it used to be a coffee shop,” St. Pierre said.

Third-year development studies student Colin Lee-Chee said the project is a great idea and hopes it will accommodate the needs of so many different students.

“If it’s a large lounge area that’s great, but if you have separate rooms you could book out that would be excellent,” said Lee-Chee. “If you went in there and there were people from all different years and all different fields of study there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone to use the space as a lounge.”

St. Pierre said with so many students in the faculty, a lounge like this isn’t large enough to service them all. He hopes it will address the existing lack of space.

“The moment that we get the money is the moment we can pass it on to the project manager of the University of Calgary,” said St. Pierre. “Hopefully by 2012 in early spring we’ll have something put together.”

Simmins said the potential addition of an arts lounge will make the first floor of social sciences an important place for students to congregate. The faculty of arts recently created a new program information centre near the space being considered. The centre houses the two associate deans of students, interdisciplinary programs and the co-op programs.

“I think it’s time and I certainly hope they’re successful with their application,” said Simmins.

The quality money committee will meet next semester to choose who receives quality money funding, a joint initiative between the U of C and the SU that allows community members to better the student experience.