Some UTM students are expressing concern that the amount of student space available on campus is not keeping pace with increasing enrolment.
Over the past decade, student enrolment at UTM has more than doubled, from 6,250 in 2000 to 13,000 today. That number is expected to only increase in the coming years. By 2017, the university projects that student enrolment will increase to 15,000.
This growth has prompted a number of concerns regarding campus infrastructure. “While enrolment growth at UTM has presented opportunities for expansion of academic and research programs it has also created pressure on the campus infrastructure and presented challenges in accommodating the increased requirement for appropriate teaching, research, student services and recreational facilities,” said a 2008 UTM project planning report.
Between 2000 and 2011, five new buildings were constructed at UTM.
For Walied Khogali, executive director of the UTM Students’ Union (UTMSU), student study space is a particular area of concern. “In the fall and winter, it’s crazy. It’s actually nuts,” said Khogali. Khogali added that students frequently study on the floor, due to a lack of available desk space.
Similar issues exist for campus groups. Of the 20 academic clubs on campus, Khogali said, only two have a permanent space.
Mark Overton, UTM dean of student affairs, said that space issues are not unique to the campus.
“UTM is similar to other… Ontario campuses in terms of space — we have a lot of people and activity packed into a modest amount of space, seek efficient use of the facilities we have, add when opportunities exist, and could certainly use more [space],” said Overton.
UTM is currently undertaking a number of expansion projects. The 2011 UTM Master Plan called for approximately 200,000 gross metres of new space at the campus, doubling the current amount of available space.
The North Building, originally built in 1966 and the first building at UTM, is in the midst of a multistage reconstruction project.
Phase A, which will see the western wing of the building become the 5,000 square metre Deerfield Hall, is slated for completion this fall. The completed building will offer expanded study spaces, classrooms, and food outlets.
The four-storey, 6,300 square metre Innovation Complex is also slated for completion this fall.
In February, a UTMSU referendum on the proposed expansion of the student centre narrowly failed. If successful, the referendum would have increased the fees that students pay towards the student centre from $12.50 to $50 per session.
UTM students have also expressed concern over the lack of student parking and locker spaces.
Overton brushed off those concerns. He said that while campus spaces are usually in high demand at the start of any year, this decreases as the year moves on.
While Overton admitted that the amount of locker space could be higher, he said a plan was proposed earlier this year to address that issue.
Although exact details have not been released, Phases B and C of the North Building reconstruction project are expected to include additional academic space and student amenities.