Student Carmen Meyette is the former Student Centre Project Coordinator of the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA). During the summer semester, Meyette assisted in the development and design process of the Student Centre, alongside Teeple Architects Inc. She analyzed the prioritization and budget of the Student Centre construction. Meyette researched about other campus student centres across the province, tailoring existing ideas to fit Trent’s student culture.
In May, Teeple Architects Inc. provided Meyette with three different designs of the upcoming Centre. Meyette hosted open forums to gather the input of the student community, who was largely not in Peterborough, but were
advertised on TCSA social media outlets. Meyette further reached out to students by attending TCSA Board meetings and creating open communication with the College Cabinets on campus.
Meyette made herself available for student appointments by request and had hoped to continue hosting forums for student input on the Student Centre designs throughout the academic school year.Her involvement in the Student Centre project began with the referendum in 2012 while a member of the Gzowski College Cabinet, until her contract ended prematurely this month of October.
The TCSA has been contacted but has no comment regarding why the position was terminated. Meyette explains that complications around the new student position existed since her hiring in April 2015. She believes the TCSA executive team felt uncertain and uneasy about the coordinator position. The direction that the executive team has decided to take on the Student Centre will no longer involve a student project coordinator. No details were given about the complications or new direction of the TCSA.
Without a TCSA Student Centre Project Coordinator, it is difficult to know if the student voice will be represented at all. On one hand, the executive team of the Association could have complete control of this incredibly large project with the elimination of the position. On the other hand, the TCSA may be losing all control over the project.
Regardless, the opaque event appears to fall in line with the fashion of questionable methods regarding the Student Centre project. Arthur writer Ugyen Wangmo described a poor turn-out to the January focus groups for staff, alumni, faculty (SAF), and students in an article published February 2, 2015. These focus groups aimed to gather the opinion of the Trent community on the direction of the Student Centre designs.
According to the Consultation Report, published February 12, a total of 163 students and 67 SAF participated in the online surveys. The report states that just over 200 students and 80 staff members participated in total. Therefore, only about 13 SAF attended between the two focus groups dedicated to their group, and only about 37 students attended between the five separate focus groups.
With a population of 10,612 students in Peterborough (according to Trent University’s website and including graduate students), only 2.1% of students attended any type of Student Centre consultation. Out of full-time Canadian undergraduate students at Trent, the attendance was at an improved 24.6%.
The Student Centre project overview states that the TCSA will receive expanded offices and host additional services for students. During a phone interview, TCSA President Alaine Spiwak explained that office space is a large issue. While commissioners are provided with desks, Directors of the Board often have trouble finding space to fulfill their office hours.
A single meeting room exists within the office, seating four people. The room makes meetings crowded for the executive team of five. Spiwak says that a larger meeting room will allow the TCSA to invite more student and community involvement in future meetings. She further expressed concern for the TCSA’s Human Resource position, explaining that no office exists to foster confidential conversations. Currently, such conversations are held in a single pre-occupied office when it is not in use.
Storage space is an issue as well. While the TCSA is happy to provide students with care packages for exams and orientation, this means large boxes sit throughout the office for up to a month and members crowd in corners to put packages together for students. The expanded space of the Student Centre will resolve this issue.
The Board has not yet discussed the “additional services” to be provided, but Spiwak hopes the TCSA will expand its Direct2U program and consignment book sales. The success of both programs require more space to grow.
The construction date was originally planned to begin in April 2016, as stated in the Request of Proposal; however, the Consultation Report published on February 12 states that construction has been advanced to begin in January. With the building being erected in parking lot H of Bata Library, students are concerned that they will no longer be able to use the lot come second semester.
Lot H requires a Red Permit for parking which is $490 for the year. It is also one of the largest of the 17 red-permit lots on Symons Campus. If parking becomes unavailable at Lot H before next August, it will become a financial issue to those who paid for the space in September. Upon calling Trent Parking Services, a representative said that the Department has no idea whether or not construction will begin in January or whether students and staff will be able to use Lot H at all second semester.
The Department has no immediate plans to construct another parking lot as many further lots are rarely filled to capacity. Interestingly, Architecture Counsel Inc. posted its proposed design plans for the Trent U Student Centre over a year before the Request for Proposal was released on December 8, 2014. The Student Centre was on the Board’s agenda for a long time. Whether the Board cared or not about students’ opinions on creating a Student Centre, they seem to care about the “student experience”. The Student Centre will allow student groups to operate more efficiently.
However, the number of articles, reports, and press releases offered by Trent University does not thoroughly inform the stakeholders about the advances of the Student Centre project. The student body is left unaware of what is happening within the TCSA in regards to the Student Centre that they are essentially funding through their tuition fees.