While it made a big splash at the start of the year, not much happened regarding the TCSA’s Student Centre project for most of the first term.
This changed three days after Arthur’s last paper of 2014 went to print. On December 5, 2014, the Trent University Board of Governors approved the project in principle.
Just a few weeks into 2015 the project is beginning to develop further: beginning next week the university will be holding seven focus groups on the project (five for students and two for faculty, staff, and alumni).
This is in addition to further consultations such as an online survey and information booth forums.
Arthur has been critical of the TCSA’s and the administration’s handling of the project, specifically how it’s been rolling full steam ahead despite most students lack of awareness about it.
For example, we reached out to students to see what they wanted from the student centre, but overwhelmingly we found most students weren’t sure what the project was.
The TCSA and administration have an excellent opportunity to change this with the upcoming consultation process.
Given that they’re devoting 10 hours over three days just to meeting with students (and another four for staff, faculty, and alumni), I feel as though the intention is to raise as much awareness as possible.
That said, I sincerely hope the focus group sessions facilitate more of a critical conversation than the online survey did.
I was disappointed to find that all of the questions were structured in a way that assumed the person filling out the survey was totally on board with the project.
In the “Staff/Faculty/Alumni” survey, the question “If the new Student Centre was open today, which opportunities would attract you the most?” was asked not once, but twice. To answer it you arrange a list of items that describe various things you could do at the student centre when it’s built.
The survey for students asks it only once and seems to give more opportunities to express your opinions on how to shape various features of the space, but at no point does it facilitate criticism of any aspect of the plan.
For example, until this year there had been no mention of the “Centre for Social and Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” but now it’s taken as a given.
Apparently the concept behind it is already fully formed as no questions are asked about how to shape or improve it, let alone critically consider if anyone actually wants it taking up space there.
On the other hand, if you go back to early 2013 when the student centre referendum was passed, there was much talk about moving the Student Wellness Suite into the building. Evidently that’s not happening anymore.
As we’ve written about in the past on these opinion pages, we have a lot of questions and concerns about the project that haven’t been addressed yet.
This consultation process seems like a step in the other direction, and I certainly hope that it is.
I will be attending a focus group next week with a list of questions and an open mind.
I encourage all readers of Arthur—whether you wholeheartedly support the idea, oppose it adamantly, or don’t know a whole lot about it—to do the same.