Editorial: Study space is in short supply

By Gauntlet Editorial Board

On Sept. 5, MacKimmie Library closed its doors indefinitely.

This administrative move took 12 floors of study space away from University of Calgary students, including workrooms, computers, Information Commons tables and a large number of individual study carrels at arguably one of the least opportune moments in the university’s enrolment history. 31,509 students registered for the fall 2011 semester, the highest figure seen yet by the U of C (an increase of 738 students from last year)– and there isn’t enough room for them.

In response to this, on Oct. 18 undergraduates Sartaj Hundal and Nikolay Todorov created a Facebook event entitled “Open MacKimmie Library” in the hopes of encouraging students to gather to protest the lack of study space on campus on Nov. 10. The event has since garnered over 1,300 attendees– and a flurry of student-penned grievances, voiced through posts on the event’s wall. The tfdl controversy has also become an active conversation topic on social news website reddit.

For now, MacKimmie is being “repurposed,” a process which, as of print time, is indefinite.

Provost and academic vice-president Dru Marshall, acting as liaison between the university administration and students, met with su president Dylan Jones and subsequently authorized that $70,000 be spent on single-person furniture for the tfdl, with carrels to be brought over from MacKimmie Library before they can be replaced with new ones. Additionally, Jones facilitated the opening of 135 new study spaces on the east side of the former MacKimmie Information Commons, and around 100 carrels will be added to the tfdl by this Friday– what Jones refers to as the “first shipment” of several.

Lack of sufficient study space has been a recurring issue, as revealed by student surveys conducted by the university over the past several years. Jones himself acknowledges that adding more study carrels and the re-opening of the Information Commons is merely an “interim solution.” The space crisis has led to study space improvisation in a lot of instances– it’s not a rare sight to see a student camped out with a textbook in a hallway, or for undergraduates in search of a quiet workplace to nudge out spaces meant for law students in the Law Library.

This editorial board knows that short-term solutions will only be as effective as time allows them to be. New spaces might quell the dissent of frustrated undergraduates until after midterm season, but the MacKimmie shutdown is sure to raise even more concern during finals. This is a matter that is more immediately pressing than university budget allocations are acknowledging. Attention needs to be given to the development of long-term plans to expand the physical environment available for undergraduate study, perhaps those involving a more useful “repurposing” of spaces like the dilapidated MacEwan Hall Loft.

Although the Students’ Union might not necessarily know exactly where the solution is, their role is to work on it– and we are fortunate enough to be represented by a president who has articulated these very words. It is this editorial board’s hope that this mentality continues, and furthermore that the su translates it into more permanent, definitive measures to eradicate the issue of available student space at the U of C.

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