More Details Emerging on Multi-Million Dollar Student Centre Proposal

A potential landmark agreement could lead to the construction of a two-to-three storey multipurpose student centre in the heart of Trent University’s Symons Campus. Students and Trent community members can expect to hear more details in the coming weeks about the potential landmark agreement between the University and the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA).

Already details are being revealed as the TCSA, Trent University’s undergraduate student union, looks to move swiftly towards the annual levy referendum which will be key in determining the future of the project. Speaking in an interview on January 10, TCSA President Brea Hutchinson confirmed that the University and the student union have recently struck a task force comprising of administrators, faculty, and students to further study the issue ahead of the March referendum.

Furthermore, Trent administrators have reportedly begun the process of reaching out to prominent alumni, affiliates, and industry consultants who will help guide the project forward during future planning stages.

According to Ms. Hutchinson, the proposed student centre would likely be a joint ownership venture between the University and the TCSA with two thirds of the $15-$20 million price tag coming from students. Accordingly, the building would be co-owned by the two parties with ownership of the actual physical space being determined on a square-foot (or square-metre) basis. Trent administration has already signalled that it is behind the project, with President Steven Franklin recently calling the initiative the University’s “number one [capital] priority.”

The administration and the student union have both clarified that they wish to locate the building centrally within campus core. In a December interview, President Franklin suggested that two locations being considered were the parcel of land between the Athletic Centre’s P.S.B. Wilson Wing and Parking Lot ‘H’ (commonly known as the Bata Library lot) or a location on the university’s East Bank near the Environmental Science building.

According to Ms. Hutchinson, the union’s preferred location would be adjacent to Bata Library in the space currently occupied by Parking Lot ‘I’ which is surrounded by the West Bank bus loop. Hutchinson explained that in terms of base square footage, the parcel of land would be large enough for a building almost the size of Bata Library. When asked about the issue of moving the bus loop, she noted that it could be reconfigured or redeployed as a part of the construction.

Despite the promising steps forward in recent months, the initiative still faces the major hurdle of convincing the student population to approve the levy fee. Last year, under the leadership of Sheldon Willerton, the union put the student centre initiative to a levy vote and was narrowly defeated. This year, the union has revealed that it will ask for a recurring student levy priced somewhere between $80 and $100 which would go towards funding the project.

Hutchinson also noted that the dollar amount of the levy will have a direct impact on the size, features, and architecture of the building. “How [the project] is drafted,” she explained, “is that an $80 [levy] will give us a standard building that has a lot of square rooms that just gets the job done. If it were a $95-$100 [levy] we’d be looking at more state of the art environmental components, state of the art accessibility components, and a more ingenious design.”

Students and community members can expect more details on the physical makeup of the prospective centre within the week, as on January 17 both the University administration and the TCSA will release their lists of capital desires for the project.

For the administration, the student centre represents an opportunity to both build much needed academic infrastructure and centralize student services. According to a source, their list is expected to include a large lecture hall, reportedly bigger than Wenjack Theatre, seminar rooms, and space for student services currently spread across the campus.

Conversely, the student union’s list will emphasize space for the school’s student clubs and groups, space that according to the union does not currently exist. “[Some groups] have existed for more than 20 years at Trent and right now there is zero space for them on Symons campus,” commented Hutchinson. She argues that the new student centre would allow for groups to have a greater presence on campus and be more accessible to the student population.

Looking forward to March and the levy referendum, Hutchinson says that executive and the board of directors are optimistic about the result. “What last year’s executive did after the levy question was defeated was sit down and ask ‘why did it not succeed?’ We came up with three big problems and this year’s executive has tried to solve those problems.” She explains that if the referendum fails again then it will be up to next year’s executive and board of directors to decide a course of action. If it succeeds, however, students and community members can expect a Request for Proposal to be created and released within six months of the vote.

In the meantime, students are likely to hear much more about the initiative as both the TCSA and the University look to promote this project in the coming months.

About Matthew Rappolt 68 Articles
Matthew is a Lady Eaton College alumni, graduating in 2014 with a degree in Canadian Studies and an Emphasis in Law and Policy. Before being elected co-editor of Arthur for Volume 49, he was a campus news reporter keeping an eye on the TCSA, the colleges, and university administration. Outside of Arthur, Matthew enjoys reading, craft beer, sports, and civic pride. His aspiration is to one day open a tiny little brewery in a tiny little town.