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U of T begins Faculty of Forestry disestablishment process

Governance committee approves transferring faculty to Daniels despite student opposition, final vote on June 25

U of T begins Faculty of Forestry disestablishment process

U of T’s Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) has unanimously recommended the disestablishment of the Faculty of Forestry and its restructuring as a graduate unit under the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. The proposal must still be voted on by the Academic Board and the Executive Committee before being approved by Governing Council on June 25. If approved, the Faculty of Forestry would be disestablished, effective July 1.

Under this plan, the existing Forestry programs would continue to operate, but administrative and financial duties, including Forestry’s budget, would be moved under the jurisdiction of the Daniels Faculty. Financial aid would continue at current levels following the potential restructuring, as would Forestry endowments.

The restructuring proposal is motivated in part by the Faculty of Forestry’s projected long term financial unsustainability, and by the synergies between Daniels and Forestry programs.

Forestry Graduate Student Association (FGSA) Chair Nicole Tratnik urged the committee to reconsider the proposal because it does not meet students’ needs, but the proposal nonetheless received unanimous recommendation.

U of T Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr said that restructuring Forestry would be “a unique moment when the discipline can be redefined within the context of the university and wider society, and where the new synergies and opportunities can be realized.” The proposal discusses this potential in research areas such as “bio products, landscape conservation, or mass timber use in building design and construction.”

Tratnik, however, believes the proposal is inadequate in its current form. “Forestry and architecture could be something novel and rewarding, but if done badly, could result in the loss of Canada’s oldest institution of Forestry, a pillar of higher education and research excellence at a time when Canada’s forests face unprecedented change,” she said.

Proposed Daniels budget

The proposal notes that despite managing a balanced budget, the Faculty of Forestry will not be financially sustainable in the long term. In addition to moving Forestry’s budget to Daniels, U of T would also provide an additional $1 million to its base budget “to support future collaborations amongst faculty members and the Faculty’s overall sustainability.”

Tratnik criticized the vagueness of the commitment and said that there is no guarantee this would be used to support Forestry directly. She also questioned U of T’s proposal to allocate this $1 million to Daniels, rather than allocating that money to directly support the Faculty of Forestry.

Under the proposal, the Dean of Forestry position would cease to exist, and Daniels Dean Richard Sommer would have administrative and budgetary responsibility for Forestry, “including responsibility for faculty budgetary appointments transferred from Forestry” and appointing a Forestry Program Director.

Criticism of consultation process

Following consultations beginning in March 2017, the proposal was formalized and released for consultation among faculty and staff in December. It was open for the minimum requirement of 120 days before it could go through governance.

While the report notes that “Forestry faculty members unanimously supported moving forward with a restructuring process,” Tratnik told the committee that this was misleading. She alleged that “three of the seven faculty members that did not agree were moved to other departments, and [that] the proposal wasn’t voted on by the Forestry Faculty Council.”

In response to a question about this issue from a PBC member, Regehr said that U of T’s faculty restructuring policy does not require it to obtain approval from affected faculty councils.

Tratnik said that U of T failed to incorporate the FGSA’s suggestion of making Forestry a high-level Extra-Departmental Unit under Daniels, which would grant it more administrative power to “keep Forestry’s interests intact.”

She added that U of T failed to explicitly communicate its intentions of establishing an urban forestry undergraduate program, and to clarify the status of cross-divisional teaching of current Forestry programs.

The PBC lost its quorum toward the end of the meeting, meaning that it could not approve its April 3 meeting report. Approval of the report has been moved to the first meeting of next academic year in September. Quorum is nine voting members — or one-third of its total voting members.

On May 30, the Academic Board voted to recommend the proposal, with 43 votes in favour, three votes against, and two abstentions.

Editor’s Note (June 7, 11:00 am): This article has been updated to include details from the Academic Board vote.

Daniels receives $6 million donation to establish financial aid awards

Gift from Daniels Foundation to support undergraduate, graduate students

Daniels receives $6 million donation to establish financial aid awards

The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design has received a $6 million donation from the John and Myrna Daniels Foundation that will be used to provide financial support to its undergraduate and graduate architecture students. The donation establishes the John and Myrna Daniels Foundation Opportunity Award, which will be awarded to students based on academic merit and financial need.

According to Dale Duncan, the Daniels faculty’s Senior Communications & Media Relations Officer, $2 million of the endowed fund is reserved for undergraduate students, while the remaining $4 million may be used to support both undergraduate and graduate students. U of T will match the annual payout of the donation, hence doubling its impact. “In time, this will provide close to $500,000 in student financial assistance every year,” said Duncan.

Like other endowed award funds at U of T, this contribution is established in perpetuity in order to preserve its value over time, accounting for inflation. As a result, the capital from the donation will be invested by the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation.

The award is the second that John and Myrna Daniels have created for the faculty, following the John and Myrna Daniels Scholars Award, which was created in 2008 from a $5 million donation. The Scholars Award, targeted exclusively to graduate students, has provided financial aid to 81 master’s students. According to Duncan, many of the awards established at the faculty have historically been directed solely to graduate students because the faculty did not offer undergraduate programs from 1998–2012.

“With our undergraduate programs attracting large numbers of students, the Faculty is very appreciative of those donors who now wish to support the undergraduate student community with their educational costs,” wrote Duncan.

U of T phased out undergraduate programs from Daniels in 1998, moving the undergraduate major in Architectural Studies to the Faculty of Arts & Science. In 2012, the architecture faculty reintroduced the undergraduate program. It now has two undergraduate programs and seven graduate programs.

As of November 2017, the Daniels faculty had 1,046 undergraduate students and 396 graduate students. Like students in the Faculty of Arts & Science, tuition for domestic undergraduates is $6,590; international undergraduate tuition is $45,690. Domestic tuition for master’s studies in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design is $12,070; international tuition is $41,840. Tuition for master’s studies in Visual Studies is $8,860 for domestic students and $31,150 for international students.

This latest donation brings the John and Myrna Daniels’ support of the faculty to $30 million. The John and Myrna Daniels had previously provided $14 million in 2008 to create the Scholars Award and provide capital support to the faculty. In 2013, they provided $10 million to support the revitalization of One Spadina Crescent, where the faculty is currently located.

“The Daniels Faculty is tremendously honoured to have received three gifts over the past decade,” wrote Duncan.

John Daniels graduated from U of T in 1950 with a Bachelor’s of Architecture. “He received financial support in the form of an award during his time at U of T,” said Duncan. “He has noted that the support he received as a student helped make it possible for him to complete his studies and pursue a very productive and rewarding career.”

Architecture graduate students report subpar working conditions in One Spadina

Students cite lack of privacy, noise concerns, limited workspaces

Architecture graduate students report subpar working conditions in One Spadina

Architecture critic Alex Bozikovic of The Globe and Mail once called One Spadina, the central hub for the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, “one of the best Canadian buildings of the past decade.” But since the faculty celebrated its formal opening in November 2017, graduate students have been voicing complaints about the building’s design. Specifically, the graduate studio space in One Spadina has come under fire for its limited desk space and bad acoustics.

The New York Times once praised the studio as a “110-foot-wide column-free room,” but the lack of columns and walls, paired with its high ceiling, have created an environment where hushed conversations and even clicks of keyboard typing echo across the room.

In addition to the high noise levels, there is also limited desk space and privacy in the studio, due to desks lacking dividers and the absence of walls.

“You don’t have a ton of room for your own stuff,” said Louisa Kennett, a first-year Master of Architecture student. “I think having a low wall might be alright, but I don’t think having cubicles would necessarily be a positive change, because it would inhibit discussion amongst classmates.”

In response to the lack of privacy, many students have resorted to constructing their own dividers as a solution.

However, there are no tools available for graduate students to construct these dividers, said Nassim Abdollahi Sani, a second-year Master of Architecture student. Furthermore, the time for construction is too costly, especially for students inexperienced with woodwork.

“I feel like for someone who is here maybe two, three days a week, four days a week for a short time, it doesn’t make sense,” said Sani.

Speaking on the problem with acoustics, Shawn Johnston, a second-year Master of Architecture student, said that, “When there’s a bunch of people in here, no matter what, it just feels noisy. And when people are stressed, you can hear it — if there’s one or two people in here, you can hear the conversation across the room.”

The noise levels are a partial result of having no dividers on the open desks. The undivided desk surfaces have also resulted in no privacy and unclear boundaries of space, explained Sani.

“Each person doesn’t even have enough room to do anything in. So even if I wanted to do something, it would take some space away from the next person.”

There is limited desk space and privacy in the studio. ADAM LAM/THE VARSITY

The motivation behind the open spaces

Sani recalled that in the old building for the graduate studio spaces, students were assigned cubicles with tall walls for privacy.

But in the new studio space, according to Daniels Dean Richard Sommer, they have “arranged the studios to facilitate more collaboration, and distribute some of the space that was previously dedicated to individual desks to more collective work.”

“I’m not sure the real evidence exists to say that they’re working here less than they were before,” Sommer said.

“There was no poll to know how many students were working in our old building. According to our Faculty, just as many students are working in the studio now.”

He also noted that studio spaces in the current building have more floor space than in the previous building but acknowledged that the “change is one that not all the students welcome.”

Suggesting solutions to the problems of acoustics and privacy, Sommer recommended students go to the libraries, fabrication labs, and the main hall.

The feasibility of these suggested solutions

In response to Sommer’s suggestion for graduate students seeking silence to work in non-studio spaces, Johnston agreed that it made sense for non-modeling work. “The library is definitely more private, and it’s totally an option for the students to go. I think that’s good.”

But for the construction of models, Johnston noted that “if you want to build a model in a quiet place, you can’t really go to the library to do that. I mean, it’s kind of weird, right?”

“All of our materials are here, we can’t store anything in the library,” added Sani. “We can’t go back and forth. Everything gets messy. So you want your desk to be where you want to build your models and store everything.”

As an alternative, Sani said an expansion of workshop space would be useful. “I think a workshop would be a much better space for modelling than a library,” she said. “A library is for writing essays, and papers, and researching – it’s not really meant for building models.”

While all three graduate students interviewed in the open studio spaces preferred the collaborative environment more than the previous individual environment, they still believe that the space could be improved.

“Working in the studio space means you get a lot of feedback from other students and things like that,” said Johnston. “The great thing about it being as open as it is, I think what they’re trying to do is encourage collaboration.”

“The problem with that was how it was a smaller room, with a lower ceiling. It just felt like an office,” Sani added.

“The good thing is that it’s open, you get to interact a lot with people, you get to see what other students are doing — I love that about this space, but at the same time, there’s no privacy,” Sani said. “So I think it has to be something in between.”

Sommer added that it is an “incredible privilege” for Daniels graduate students to have their own space, but acknowledged that the changes in the new building are ones that “not all students welcome.”

When asked whether the form of the building achieves the function of encouraging collaboration, Sommer said that “for the most part, yes. We could get it better. But for the most part, it was conceived for this.”

Editor’s Note (November 1, 11:02 pm): This article has been updated to correct a mistake made in the editing process that misattributed a quote to Sommer.