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Unfinished Student Commons opens as study space

Capacity limited to 355 students at a time
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The Student Commons building. CAROLINE BELLAMY/THE VARSITY
The Student Commons building. CAROLINE BELLAMY/THE VARSITY

Fourteen years after the project was first approved, the unfinished University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Student Commons is opening as a study space for students as of October 4. 

Though the building will not be completely renovated until September 2022 and many of the services planned for it are not yet offered, the UTSU hopes that the Student Commons will provide students with a space on campus this year. 

Services offered

In an email to The Varsity, the UTSU’s Vice-President Operations Fiona Reuter wrote that she considers the Student Commons “a physical representation of how [the UTSU is] growing in [its] capacity to serve students.”

The building’s partial opening will provide students with several floors of seating space and meeting places to relax and study. For now, the commons’ capacity will be limited to 355 students, or 25 per cent of its full capacity. Masking and physical distancing will also be required. 

As the building is renovated to accommodate the needs of each service, the commons will also introduce a café, a welcome desk, and a variety of planned activities, as well as financial and wellness services. These services will include a collaboration with RBC On Campus to host financial literacy workshops.

The centre will be entirely staffed by the UTSU’s staff and other students employed by the UTSU. The UTSU’s executive offices, which were previously located at Hart House Circle, have already been moved into the commons. For the building’s opening week, the UTSU hopes to collaborate with big businesses to run events.

Connecting students to their campus

In light of the shortage of student spaces on campus, the UTSU hopes that opening the commons will provide students with a place to spend their time. Reuter added that U of T’s size can sometimes feel overwhelming, and that it can consequently be difficult for students to feel connected to campus.  

“We hope the Student Commons will serve as a space for all students to feel welcome and engaged with student life at [U of T],” Reuter elaborated. She added that, given that the project has been in progress for so long, she’s grateful for all the work that past UTSU teams have done. She hopes students will like the final product the union has created. 

Editor’s note (4 October): A previous version of this article said that the UTSU’s executive offices had not yet been moved.