Trent’s newly erected Student Centre was a huge talking point amongst a large majority of both the student body and faculty last year after Bata’s closing was announced. Bata was and is not only a library, but the destination of the West Bank route and at the forefront of Trent as a whole. It hosted meetings, classes, events, study groups, and a reliable Tim Horton’s for the unfortunate many with 9 a.m. or earlier classes. Right on the heels of that announcement, however, was that of the building of a Student Centre right next to the under-construction Bata. Rumors quickly started about the what it would look like, how many rooms it would have, and whether or not it would have a Starbucks. And thank goodness, it does – have a Starbucks, that is. Watching it slowly grow, piece by piece over the months leading to its grand (albeit late) opening was a sight for anyone who has attended Trent for a while. I decided to take a quick tour around the now up-and-fully-running Student Centre to talk to a few people with fellow writer Nick Taylor.
Our first talk was with Monique, a second-year student who just transferred to Trent. She wasn’t here last year while Bata was still open but definitely felt its loss. She likes the Student Centre but thinks it’s “too busy during peak times, too loud and too much of a hub” to be a proper study space in comparison to the library, which she sees as a central and quiet place. Money spent well? She wasn’t completely convinced.
Next was Brazil, another second-year student who had experienced Bata library in all its glory when it was still open. Her impression of the Student Centre? “I don’t come here a lot, but the architecture is weird and superfluous.” She wasn’t completely sure that “modern” meant “lots of angles and sloping ceilings.” From her perspective, the Student Centre could not properly replace Bata because it was more of a lobby than a library; and it seemed more like a social gathering space with its open floor plan, compared to the library’s small and studious sections. Her suggestions? More classroom space and more rentable rooms to make up for the study space and club and activity rooms that we lost with Bata’s renovation. What she did like about the building? That the TCSA had a spacious office of their own. And despite the closure of the library, she’s found it relatively easy to borrow books from the temporary library desks and offices.
We also had the chance to talk to two girls who are relatively new to Trent as first-years. Although they never got to use Bata, they had both been on tour of the campus while it was still open. I asked them if they felt a sense of loss from not having a space to study, and they admitted that it didn’t make a huge difference to them – the OC common room was a great place to study. In contrast to Monique and Brazil, however, they really liked the architecture and floor plans of the Centre, and saw it as more of a social than a study space. If they really needed to study? The upper levels of the Centre are quiet enough for them to focus. Their only suggestion was more tables on the lower level for hanging out, and in the upper levels as well to create more study space.
Last, but definitely not least was our conversation with Alex Mackenzie, a student staff member at the service desk on the third level, who emphasizes that his personal opinions regarding the Student Centre are solely from a student perspective and not as a Trent University employee. Alex says he likes the building architecturally and loves the open plan. However, he thinks it’s unavoidably out of the way seeing as Bata was seemingly the center of Trent. The Student Centre only has three lecture halls which others didn’t see as nearly enough. But to Alex, in comparison to LEC for example, that only has seminar rooms, it’s much more than expected. Suggestions? The openness of the building is cool, but could be used in much more practical ways; and he felt that there should have been announcements of any delays to the grand opening, to keep those who were expectant (nearly everyone) updated. What will they do with the very impressive office the library is currently running out of? He has no idea. He does think it could be easily turned into private study rooms because of its office setup replete with glass doors and walls and nice carpeting.
All in all, Trent’s $16 million project, the Student Centre, is an amazing addition to the campus. It’s an undoubtedly large building with lots of room, very modern architecture, and not one, not two, but three lecture halls (one of which, everyone seemed to agree, was a bit awkward with its multiple angles, but nothing is perfect). Trent’s goal seemed to be to create a space that could be a stand-in for the library during its renovation. Does the Student Centre fulfill that goal? Not quite, in my opinion. Strictly as a Student Centre, it is a social hub, with lots of space to relax and hangout, a Starbucks for personalized drinks and snack food, but as a study space? It seems just okay. It is important to remember though, that Bata is meant to open again in the fall (if there are no delays) and both it and the Student Centre would be up and running. Both, together, seem like the perfect pair. The Student Centre in that view, creates space in addition to the multiple rooms and areas already present in Bata, and creates a much more relaxed and social space for students to hang out. I think it’s safe to say that the Student Centre is great, but boy, will it be much better when Bata reopens.