The St. Michael’s College Writing Centre will adopt radically reduced operating hours for this academic year, The Varsity has learned.
The centre will be open for a single day on Thursdays, down from its Monday through Friday availability in previous years. First- and second-year students will have priority in booking the new reduced time slots.
Resources that had been previously allocated to the writing centre are to be devoted to alternative initiatives around the college according to St. Michael’s College principal Dominico Pietropaolo. The reallocation is intended to fill the void left by the writing centre’s new hours, and will include a personal librarian program, library research centre, research and writing workshops, and a new website.
The decision to reconfigure writing resources at St. Michael’s College was made by Pietropaolo, who said he had consulted students, and staff including Steve Hoselton, the director of the centre, beforehand.
“There was not complete agreement on all sides,” said Pietropaolo, “but compromises were made which I believe left everybody relatively satisfied.”
Hoselton declined to comment to The Varsity on the changes, or his involvement in the consultative process described by Pietropaolo.
“I’m not 100 per cent informed,” said SMCSU president Mike Cowan. “It is on my radar, and I am concerned. It was a useful resource.”
Cowan said he had not yet consulted with Pietropaolo about the changes but had been in contact with the principal’s office about scheduling a future meeting.
News of the changes comes amidst confusion and speculation about the future of the centre, which is based in Kelly Library. Rumours this summer suggested that the SMC writing centre was to close entirely.
“I used the SMC writing centre for the summer courses that I took,” said Yves Utanes Lamanilao, adding that she found the service to be very helpful. “I just hoped there would be a lot more available time slots to make an appointment and use the centre. I remember having to watch the online schedule closely in order to get a space.”
Students like Lamanilao may be disappointed by the new course laid out by Pietropaolo. While the centre is to remain open for one day a week, many students and staff at the college still have only a vague idea of the changes to come.
“I’m still attending meetings trying to figure out what the new system is,” says St. Michael’s College campus life coordinator Christina Peter. Peter hopes to clarify the situation to the student body once she herself has received more information.
“I’m waiting for the go-ahead,” said Peter. “Once I understand what’s going on, it will be all systems go.”
Three of the services touted by Pietropaolo, including the writing centre, the personal librarian program, and the library research centre will continue to emphasize one-on-one help with writing and research. There will also be workshops offering group sessions aimed at undergraduates.
According to Pietropaolo, the operating hours of all three facilities will be roughly equivalent to the availability previously offered at the writing centre. All of the changes have already been implemented, except for the new website, which has been held up by technical difficulties. Pietropaolo promised Friday that the new site is likely to be online “within the next few days.”
Pietropaolo said that the changes were a result of his administration’s focus on “efficiency,” and not the result of a budget cutback. Cowan alluded to financial difficulties faced by the college, but stopped short of attributing the change in hours to the college’s budgetary situation.
In an interview with The Varsity, Pietropaolo suggested that the changes would allow staff at the centre, who are full-time employees, to work full-time, rather than for only a few hours each week.
Last year, staff at SMC including the writing centre employees unionized to form Unit 4 of CUPE 3902. It was not immediately clear what role the union has played in recent changes.