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TRU says removal of study space is part of plan to revitalize 'Student Street'

Revamping 'Student Street'

Recent closures of graduate study rooms at Thompson Rivers University are part of a plan that would see a revitalized “Student Street” in its Old Main building, a report to the university's senate states.

TRU’s librarian department recently took issue with the reconfiguration of 10 graduate study rooms to new office space in the university’s House of Learning building.

The librarians said the loss of the rooms were the removal of an “academic service” that was in high demand by students. The librarians felt they were left out of the decision-making process.

University administrators who prepared the report say the repurposing of the rooms is intended to create space so that administrative departments on campus can be merged together.

“As new programs, initiatives, and research opportunities present themselves, demands for physical space across our campuses have increased significantly and these pressures are expected to continue,” the report states.

“This drives a continuous state of change as we respond to emerging priorities and new opportunities in the management of the university’s use of its space.”

Were the rooms used?

While the librarians say the graduate study rooms were highly sought after by students and had an occupancy rate over 90 per cent in peak months, the university says the average utilization rate over a 12-month period was 35 to 47 per cent.

Amy Paterson, TRU librarian department co-chair, told Castanet the graduate study rooms were unique because they were bookable for a month at a time. This meant fewer students could use the room compared to a regular study room that is only bookable for several hours a day.

“The data indicates that these room are not well utilized,” the report states.

“Spaces with similar utilization rates, depending on their location and purpose, would be subject to the same scrutiny and potential reallocation.”

The department co-chairs claim the statistics provided were misinterpreted to “justify the unilateral removal of an academic service by administration" and disagreed that the rooms were under-utilized.

The report states the utilization rate for the rooms is expected to decrease. It states the university is projecting a 30 per cent decrease in graduate enrolments in the 2024-25 academic year and in further years.

Willing to consider changes

The library co-chairs took issue with the consultation process, saying further discussions with the department would have cleared up “misapprehension” of the data.

The university said its space management team relied on data to make the decision, but acknowledged more consultation with the library should have been done.

“The reality is that space planning and utilization is much more complex and time sensitive (ideally completed over the summer months),” the report states.

The university said its space management team has been working with TRU’s librarian and is willing to consider other changes to accommodate graduate student space within the library.

According to the report, the university has purposefully increased study spaces across campus by 278 per cent between 2016 and 2020 and 108 per cent since then, “even accounting for additional student FTE’s.”

“TRU has invested greatly in expanding student study space as well as recent investments in OLARA with the creation of a graduate student commons,” the report reads.

‘A temporary measure’

The report states the consolidation of administrative departments on campus will allow the opportunity to revitalize the “Student Street” on TRU’s campus

Once completed, administrators say the change will create a new welcome centre for future students, free up space for student-facing functions, develop space for research facilities, develop flexible office space and allow for new dedicated classrooms and a completed engineering lab in Old Main.

According to the report, TRU’s space management team will be better positioned to revisit new study spaces for graduate and undergraduate students once the project is complete.

“It is our expectation that over the next 18 to 24 months, as additional space inventory comes available with upcoming capital projects, that we will be able to reconsider bringing these or other similar spaces back online,” the report states.

“TRU is optimistic that this is a temporary measure.”

The report states TRU is contemplating adding a 50-workstation temporary building to use as "swing space" as it reassesses space allocations across its campus.

While the librarians stated they felt TRU’s priorities of fostering student belonging and increasing research focus were “dismissed” by the change, TRU said the total impact of the plan will better serve its priorities.

The issue will be discussed at Monday's meeting of TRU's senate.



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