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Typically, I sit down to write an article, putting together a story balancing researched facts and interview quotes. However, this is different. I’m not writing this article to tell you a story or make you face the facts. In fact, my aim is to write as little as possible after this introduction. I merely asked all the students I could reach about their personal feelings on the student centre question. I started with asking a couple friends from other campuses which do have student centers how they feel about theirs. Then I asked Trent if they want one.

Here are the answers:

Julie Lane, McMaster University in Hamilton writes,

[McMaster University has had our student centre] longer than I have been here, like ten years, maybe more. There is a pub, the student wellness centre, there is a printing place, campus events office, the newspaper office, mental health office, sexual health office, walk home service, offices, clubs, administrators, off campus housing lounge, and probably a ton more stuff that I don’t know about. There’s also businesses like a place to buy GO tickets, food places like Timmies, Pizza Pizza, Mr. Sub, and more. I agree that every university should have a student centre. The student centre is a base for a lot of things and it has great resources. I wouldn’t have figured out about my [broken foot] as fast if it wasn’t there. I would definitely pay an $80.00-$100.00 fee for it—that’s actually a lot less than we pay now so it’s totally worth it.

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Kathryn McNeil, Mt. St. Vincent University writes,

Our student centre (Rosaria), acts as a go-between for certain people. For those off-campus students who want a place to study without having to travel all the way home between classes, it’s a really great place, with all these couches and food options. The gym is there for people who want to go work out, and the way this building works is that it’s in the central part of campus. There are hallways and tunnels that connect one building with a residence and one of the classroom buildings. My favorite part is the piano, which anyone is allowed to use. It’s a great way to de-stress, and all last year, that was the central point where people would go to see what they could do to get involved or meet up with friends before going to pub nights. The food bank was also there, as well as a chill room where students can go to get away from everything, or talk to someone if they’re finding the transition to university life really difficult.

If done right, a student centre building can be very beneficial, to students and faculty alike. It’s where our bookstore is, and where the food services have their office, and the bar is great for concerts and the like.

In the case of our university, I think it is beneficial. I spend a lot of my time in our student centre and all the concerts that come to the student centre we get a discount on, like a $10.00 ticket for a Joel Plasket concert. All last year, that’s where almost half of my best memories are. It’s where I met my friends I have now, and it’s where Frosh Week took place. And it’s a place where I can go to de-stress, which is big for me. If I were asked to pay a bit of extra money for Rosaria, then I would.

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And now to hear from Trent:

Ejaaz Idris writes,

I am for Trent creating a student centre. I believe that it is unfortunate in today’s economic climate and an unwary provincial government that we cannot expect such an expense to be covered by public coffers. However, for me a student centre is beneficial from a long term perspective; currently we have students visiting Blackburn Hall for Disability Services, Medical Care, Counseling and so on while IT support is in Bata Library and Academic Skills as well as the Career Centre are hosted at Champlain College. And then each college also hosts its own Senior Tutor. Key services such as these not being under one roof concerns me. I am fairly involved and “in-tune” with university business, both administratively and academically. So, for me it is not a problem finding those services, but for the rest of the population at Trent, many may not know where to turn for services. Currently we have the TCSA tucked in a corner down a dark hallway in Champlain when really a student union office should be hosted in a brighter and more open location such as the one proposed in the new building. Student groups all located in one location, including TIP in the potential student centre is something I’d really like to see happen. I feel that international students, for example, already have the language barrier to deal with; why should we send them on a (literal) marathon around campus to find the services they need to ensure their education can be completed?

Now the topic of funding such a building. For me the obvious answer is you either pay now or pay later. Most of those that argue the student centre should not be funded by those who will never see it come to fruition, I ask, where do you think we got buildings such as the Athletic Complex from? It doesn’t just miraculously appear. It took years of student levies to see it come to life and the levies were paid generously by the students who are no longer at Trent and didn’t get to see it come to life. We may not be able to enjoy the Student Centre in our time here at Trent, but we should look at it as an investment for the future students from our great university. Why do you think alumni donate back to Trent University? They donate to ensure that Trent continues to grow and stays relevant in the academic environment, so as to keep their education relevant.

“A Concerned Student” writes,

We already have so many dedicated centers, career, counseling, academic, etcetra. I still don’t understand as to what student center they now want to create. These are redundant expenses. If the University expects to open such a center, and charge a levy, they may do so, as long as it is refundable to whoever requires it. Personally, I do not support the waste of scarce economic resources.”

We asked Alice, who is studying at Trent for a year abroad from Birmingham England, about their student centre and what she thinks of this debate at Trent. She writes,

Birmingham University has a really big student centre; it’s called the Guild of Students. There are student lounges, a bar, subway, different rooms, and on Saturday night they host “FAB and Fresh,” which is like a massive student night. They also have travel agents, real estate agents, a convenience store, places to sit outside, and a fountain (in a place called Mermaid Square). The Guild of Students also runs elections each year for people who run it. They provide stuff like accredited taxi companies, job centers- everything!

Redbrick Newspaper is also a part of the Guild of Students and it’s huge. It is one of the most successful and renowned student newspapers in the UK.

The experience at Trent is very different form University of Birmingham because of the size. Trent is an easily accessible campus. However, I find the lack of communal space for all colleges is a bit of a shame. Apart from the pub there is no where to go and there are no party nights on campus. A building could serve as a nightclub venue for students of age to go to – and would be a way to raise money. International students would also have a communal place to go and meet new people. I find that at home the Guild of Students gives us a chance to actually make a difference. A lot of societyfairs are held there- there is always something going on. And it is a place to find out about a ton of stuff, from jobs, to houses, and more.

The Guild are also given a pretty big budget by the University, which in the beginning would be essential if Trent wanted to create something like it.

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Rachel Shorten writes,

I am definitely in favor of adding a new student centre to Trent’s campus. While I may be graduated by the time the centre is complete, I feel as though my contribution through my student fees would be well worth it for future students. Trent has a library that is often overcrowded. It would be amazing to have another place to go to study. We also have several “common areas” around campus. However, I feel as though these spaces are very college specific. It would be nice to have a common area for all Trent students to enjoy together. Having a student centre would bring more solidarity to the student body by giving us a place to study and socialize.

rachelshorten

Anonymous writes,

I am against it mostly because I’ll be long gone before it’s ready to use. I think it’s kind of an issue asking students to be the primary source of funding for the construction of a building we won’t be around to use. I also think they should have a clearer idea of what they intend to do with the space before they ask us to start paying for it. There’s no way it can house all the things they want it to.

Ben Yntema writes,

I feel that adding additional student and academic space is a natural step in the evolution of the university. If Trent is to continue to grow, attract more students, and maintain the current student body we need more room.

To me, having a student centre would allow the Trent community to grow stronger and larger. I see the student center as another available student space in which we would see a continuation of the current theme for many of the buildings on campus, where academics can blend with living space.

It should be necessary for all students to contribute to this project. However, much of the funding responsibility should fall on incoming students that could potentially make use of the completed project. By this I mean that fees necessary for the construction could be larger for students entering the university and lower for the students graduating and moving on.

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Adam Butz writes,

It is well-known to many, if not all, students that Trent does not have enough student space. That means space where students are able to study, work together, spend time on campus and overall, become more comfortable with Trent.

This is a university that needs to grow if it wants to survive. We have our colleges and they are a main driving force for the school’s environment. This being said, what happens with the students who do not get heavily involved with the colleges after first year? They lose a big connection to Trent. I am not saying that building a student center will automatically change things, but it is a step in the right direction. Trent is at a cross roads; we are loosing degrees, classes, and event students. If Trent does not grow then how do we expect to get better? A few years back, Trent decided to put millions of dollars in to the Athletic Complex and, like the student center, was something Trent needed for the students.

Yes, the student center will require money from the students, and the thought of more money onto our tuition is not something that we want, but as a student, I would be willing to pay it.
Overall, yes to the student center. Trent needs this to both attract new students and to keep the ones it’s got. It should create a few jobs and be a place for all students. Let’s make this happen.

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Another Anonymous writes,

From what I hear, this center will be raising student levies for students who will not even be present and able to use it. So, on that front I disagree. But if this center will improve student life and possibly implement more support systems then levies should be raised for incoming students who will be around when its complete and they’re able to enjoy it.

Anonymous number three writes,

I see the benefit being advertised and the motivation behind advocacy for this project. However, I’m offended that I have to answer this question again; I know it likely stung when the results of last years levy campaign came in, and if I recall, the TCSA lost the yes vote by like thirty votes. However, as narrow a margin as it was, it was an answer from the students and to just come back this year asking again seems disrespectful, pushy, and suggests a “we’ll just keep pushing it until you give us the answer we want” attitude. Trent has many other ways it could improve— it’s not as if we’re perfect— oh, except for not having a student center… There are colleges lacking in student space, repairs to be made in residence, infrastructure problems to attend to and so on. Why are we a) asking about this centre, again and b) talking about it like it will solve our problems? It just brings a bunch of existing services into closer proximity to each other and leaves current questions and problems unanswered. So, yes, this is an appropriate step for Trent, but not the right step to take just yet.

Anonymous number four writes,

For me, I don’t know if a student centre is relevant because I no longer live on campus. If I have to wait around between classes I know of pockets of places to hang out. I feel they should ask the people who live on campus. Personally, I feel I pay enough for my education and for my rent. I also know that first-years pay a lot for their own housing on campus. Plus, I will never see this student centre—it may benefit first-years, but we already have many cafeteria spaces, lunch spaces, classrooms that remain open with no classes running in them, etcetera. Personally, a lot of wasted space and electricity is already an issue for many rooms at Trent.

Yet another Anonymous writes,

From my understanding of the Student Centre project, it involves the TCSA increasing the student levy to accumulate enough capital to partly pay for a new student centre on Trent Campus. The centre would be partly owned by the TCSA (or more importantly the students of Trent) and we would be able to determine what we want to be provided by the student-owned portion of the centre.

Assuming that the university will go ahead with the plans regardless if the TCSA covers part of the cost, I would say that this would be a good opportunity for the students of each college to come together to support the creation of an all-inclusive space regardless of College affiliations. This would help to create a more integrated Trent community as students would have a common area to interact in and would contribute to the overall quality of the university. This would also help the university to decrease some of the costs associated with the project.

However, if the plans to build the student centre rely on TCSA/ student contribution to cover part of the cost, I would say that building a new Student Centre might not be the best allocation of university resources. It would be an awesome feature to be able to advertise to prospect students but at the end of the day students do not (generally) go to university due to the existence of a partly owned student centre; they go because they want to get the education and skills to allow them to get a job after university. If this is the case, then Trent students should consider what they are investing in and maybe try to get the university to fund the development of programs at Trent versus the creation of a new student centre.

End opinions

A final note from me: more shocking to me than any of these opinions was the number of students who told me, “Sorry, can’t help you, I don’t know anything about it,” or better still, “We’re building a student what?” That leads me to suggest a slant in the opinions towards the students who, one way or another, are actively “in the know.” This debate is not accurately reaching all students.