“All I need is a desk, a chair, and a damn outlet.” This is typically the thought that goes through one’s mind as they peruse the Bladen Wing, Humanities Wing, the Science Research building, and the library multiple times looking for study space. How is it that the university is ranked one of the best in the world, yet limited room for students, or even faculty, have been an ongoing and huge barrier?
“It is absolutely ridiculous trying to find a study space on campus, especially during midterm and final season. I know everyone is frantically trying to do some final review of their notes before heading in to write their exams and I’ve often come across people just sitting on the floor, hallways, and stairwells and in between the library shacks. That’s not okay. Considering the amount of tuition students, especially [what] non-domestic students pay, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to find a chair and an outlet to plug your laptop in”, shares Mariam Nowroz, who is in her final year at UTSC.
Perhaps one of the people Nowroz saw sitting on the floor studying was first-year student Lulu Gemma who when asked about her opinion on the topic had this to say: “I thought there would be somewhere where I could go no matter what. But a lot of times I end up going to the library and sitting in between the bookshelves.”
UTSC, however, has invested a lot of time and money into trying to make space for students. Approximately 57, 748 square metres of new buildings were created in fall of 2015. The construction of the Instructional Centre, the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, as well as the Environmental Science and Chemistry building was supposed to accommodate students’ needs and create this desired space.
In an interview with Andrew Arifuzzaman, the campus’ Chief Administrative Officer, he shares, “We have, of all campuses University of Toronto has, the least amount of space. We have less space than what the standard is. We’ve gotten better than where we were six years ago, but there is still a space deficit. So that is why there is constantly construction going on. In the last five years, we have created the Instructional Centre, the Environmental Science and Chemistry Centre, and the Pan Am Sports Centre and now we’ve started the Highland Hall project. We have plans to grow and make additional space on this campus.”
The master plan highlights new classroom and lecture hall space and new research facilities. The growth and expansion of residential housing to serve the large student body expects around “700 new beds and more space for students and a cafeteria, which will be open for the whole campus,” says Arifuzzaman. Creation of a hotel conference centre is also in the works, which will be located near the Pam Am Centre and Highway 40 to create a one way pedestrian street for students. The master plan additionally includes expanding the transportation hub near Ellesmere Road.
Right now, the focus is on the Highland Hall project and completing that in the next 18 months. Arifuzzaman is confident that such a task can and will be completed: “We’ll have additional space and it’ll be better from there.”
Arifuzzaman also explained that this year UTSC has been funded by the federal government by the SIF (Strategic Investment Funds) project that allows for the renovation of a number of the teaching and research space in the Science Wing. “Some of the labs there were vintage [from the] 60’s and we’re upgrading those labs. Alongside the Highland Hall project and the Science Wing renovation, we’re working with the library to see if they can create more space for students”, says Arifuzzaman.
It is interesting to think that the very UTSC we know now will likely not look the same in the next five to ten years. Hopefully, as UTSC continues to expand, students will spend less time having to walk from one end of the campus to another in hopes of finding a place to study.