Opinion: UNB needs to relocate the Ward Chipman study lounge

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On October 6, students received an email notifying them of the following:

“As our campus continues to evolve to suit the needs of our students, you will notice some renovations taking place the next couple of months. 
 In December, Saint John College (SJC) will be getting a new home and so will the Promise Partnership. 
In addition to office renovations for SJC, the Study Lounge on the ground floor of WCL will be reconfigured to include four new classrooms.
While this work is underway the Campus Ministry will be temporarily relocated to WCL 28 until a permanent space is identified.”

 

Note the mention of the Campus Ministry and Promise Partnership offices being relocated.

That’s all well and good – but what about the Study Lounge?

Given how noisy the Commons always is, and the amount of traffic in Ganong and Irving Hall, the WCL Study Lounge was one of the only quiet places on campus to get work done.

This “reconfiguration” would not be a problem if an alternate space was being offered to students in replacement of the study lounge, but no such offer is being made.

The study lounge was spacious, had great natural lighting, and was just a hop, skip and a jump away from both Tim Hortons and the campus bookstore. No other location on campus is as quiet, comfortable, or thoughtfully placed.

The worst part about these renovations though, is their timing.

The email informing students about the changes was sent out on the Thursday before Thanksgiving weekend, and construction started the following Tuesday, on October 11. With midterms starting this month, how is it fair to give students so little notice about renovations that are taking away an area used for studying?

The sudden change would be especially inconvenient for students who did not notice the email, and were greeted by this sign on Tuesday morning.

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Sign greeting students where the study lounge used to be                       Photo: Jessica Raven

While the university apologizes for the inconvenience, there is no excuse for taking away one of the last few quiet areas on campus when there is a completely vacant space in the old Ward Chipman Library.

The Hans W. Klohn Commons was built over five years ago now, and virtually nothing has been done with the asbestos contaminated old library space . It is locked up and the doors are covered with paper like something in a quarantine zone, clearly communicating to students that it is not available for use.

The University has had five years to repurpose the Ward Chipman Library and if the campus is so short on available areas for students to study in why hasn’t anything been done with the hulking empty shell?

Mothership UNB (see UNB Fredericton) and the provincial government have been flaunting the recently announced infrastructure grants for shiney new athletic buildings up river and meanwhile a three story health hazard remains in limbo in Saint John.  

The lack of planning and funding, while largely invisible, has come to a head and it’s affecting students directly now.  

It bothers me that the student experience and education calendar cycle has been pushed to the bottom of priorities at a university. The elimination of the study lounge is a big loss for many students, and while I’m sure those in charge of these renovations did not intentionally try to put students out, talking about “suiting students needs” is a slap in the face to those who were rudely surprised in the middle of the semester.

The university needs to make additional quiet study space available immediately. Final exams are just around the corner, and it seems the students have been pushed aside and forgotten, at least until tuition is due again.