Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) President Ben Perry says that the union is prepared to move forward with plans to construct a multimillion dollar student services complex in the heart of Symons Campus regardless of whether or not the Trent University administration can provide additional funding.
Perry made these comments in a recent interview with Arthur, qualifying his statement by saying he is still hopeful that Trent can find the resources to fund additional academic and administrative space within the centre.
The student centre issue is one that has flown largely under the radar within the first two months of the fall semester as the TCSA board of directors and executive currently wait for the university to secure provincial and federal funding in order to bolster the project.
According to Perry, Trent’s administration has set a goal of raising $7 million, $3.5 million from the provincial government and $3.5 from the federal government, with which it hopes to add a sizable lecture hall and academic space to the facility.
However, there has been some doubt about the administration’s ability to raise external capital for the project. Perry acknowledged that with the current political climate, it could be difficult to convince levels of government to shell out to fund the full $7 million.
“I think that [number] is a bit above and beyond,” he stated, “I think they’ll realistically get about $5 million.” However, Perry also noted that, should the university fall short of its targets, the administration is considering an alternate arrangement in which it would provide the extra capital. “From my talks with [Trent President] Steven Franklin, he is willing to go to the [university’s] board of governors and ask them to debt-finance the extra money that is needed.”
Regardless of the outcome of the funding requests, the TCSA is ready to to move forward with the project in the coming spring.
“We have been told time and time again that we now have a student centre,” says Perry.
“Right now we have a $14 million student centre and if the university comes to the table then it just expands from there.”
The $14 million was secured for the through a referendum vote last year in which Trent’s undergraduate students voted in favour of a levy fee of $95.01 per student.
In terms of what students can expect in their new complex, a third-party report outlining spatial recommendations of the student centre, commissioned last spring by the university and the TCSA and funded through an anonymous donation, set out a list of services that such a building could provide.
The list includes public and event space; offices for levy groups, the TCSA and GSA; a Student Wellness Centre; a multi-faith room; as well as existing services spread across campus such Disabilities Services office, Academic Skills, and Health Services.
The amount of academic space in the centre would depend on the size of the university’s contribution, however the report recommends the construction of a 500 seat theatre that could do double duty as both a lecture hall and a space for productions and public meetings.
Perry confirmed that the TCSA has set “a firm deadline” of January 31, 2014 by which it needs to know about the university’s contribution to the student centre. He stated that both he and President Franklin spent the summer months touring the province discussing the project with local, provincial, and federal politicians. The university is hoping to send in a final funding proposal to the provincial and federal governments sometime in December.