On February 12 and 13, Queen’s students will face an important question. The AMS, along with the SPGS, is holding a referendum on implementing a new student fee to help fund the redevelopment of the John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC).
I am a strong supporter of the role of student government within the university. Consequently, I do not normally express opinions or intervene in matters within student leadership’s domain. However, the JDUC renovation is important to the university as well, and I want to work together with the AMS and SGPS to create a modern student life facility, which is important to the student experience on campus.
Plans for the revitalized JDUC include making the building completely accessible, creating new space for clubs and faculty societies, and developing collaborative study spaces. The annual non-reviewable fee would be implemented beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year and charged for the following 20 years. This is a standard funding model for student-led capital projects at campuses across the country.
There is a long history at Queen’s of student-led fundraising and support for campus buildings. In fact, one of our most iconic landmarks, Grant Hall, would not exist without the generous contributions of both students and alumni. The building was originally to be financed by the Frontenac County Council, but citizens rescinded the proposal in 1901 when shovels were already in the ground. Queen’s students and alumni rallied together to raise the funds needed to complete the building, one-third of which came from the students themselves.
More recently, the AMS and Queen’s students contributed more than $25 million to constructing the Queen’s Centre and within it the Athletic and Recreation Centre, a facility vastly superior to those previously available. Today, students use that facility thanks to the contributions of those who came before them. As a proud alumnus myself, I know that Queen’s students value the important role they play in shaping the university’s legacy and to the students that follow in our footsteps. If you have benefitted from the philanthropy of your predecessors by using the Queen’s Centre, please consider paying that forward now.
Graduate students may well wonder why they should contribute, given that they are more closely tied to their specific departments and often have office space. I would encourage you, too, to vote in favour. Increased graduate space has been something that graduate student leadership has proposed at various times over the past decade, but until this year I have never seen the kind of alignment between AMS and SGPS leadership that has now brought the project to this important juncture.
The university believes in the importance of this project and is proud to help fund it. The university intends to make a substantial contribution to this project and philanthropic donations will play a part, as well. I sincerely hope we have the chance to work with the AMS and SGPS to build a student centre of which we can all be proud.
Of course, this decision is not up to me. It is you, the students, who must decide about the future of the JDUC. I encourage you to learn more about the JDUC plans, ask questions about the project to your student leaders and make your decision. On February 12 and 13, cast your electronic vote and let your voice be heard. The quality of student life for future generations of Queen’s students and alumni depends on your participation.