We, the undersigned students members of the departments of Anthropology and History and Classical Studies, wish to register our opposition to the proposed Leacock space allocation changes, which would clear floors 3 and 6 of Leacock in order to make room for administrative hubs such as a welcome center. In addition, we would like to register our displeasure that student groups were not consulted about or even alerted to these plans, when departmental associations such as the HSA and CSA are directly threatened with the loss of precious office space.
First, we believe that this change will result in a more difficult and complicated student experience. We have understood the goal of this restructuring to be better student service, but in fact the contrary would be true. Students currently use departmental offices as spaces to ask about cancelled/relocated classes, write make up exams and make other general inquiries. The “service hubs” which the University seeks to create already exist within departments. Moving administrators out of the departments makes the student experience more difficult: instead of knowing exactly which floor of the Leacock building they can find all the information they need about the department, students will now need to think about five floors: floors 7-9 for their professors, and floors 3 and 6 for administrators, advisors, sessional lecturers, and so on. The separation of the department would discourage students from seeking out resources available to them.
Second, we believe that this change will result in more difficulty integrating students, both incoming and returning, into the department. Moving to a McTavish row house means that we will be removed from our professors, reducing opportunities for students to interact informally with them. This will translate to a less integrated department. McGill is already rated low on student-faculty interaction, and this separation of faculty and students would further discourage students from seeking contact with their professors.
Third, we believe that this change is detrimental to the spirit of inner departmental discussion and exchange of ideas, which is central to the spirit of academia. No longer will students and professors run into each other at the proverbial water cooler and engage in informal discussion of ideas. This potentially impacts the intellectual trajectory of the department negatively, affecting both the education we are receiving as well as the reputation of the department in the academic world. A healthy flow of ideas is absolutely necessary to maintaining an environment where research, teaching and learning can develop normally.
Fourth, we also worry that the committee is forgetting all capital investments, such as telemonitors and display cases, which the departments have already made to showcase upcoming events and achievements within the department. With departments being split, what will be done with these items? Their disappearance will make it more difficult to promote events of interest to students, and once again, the students will suffer.
Fifth, we understand that the East Asian Studies department is being moved in its entirety to Sherbrooke 688, and said transition is being promoted as a positive move which will improve their facilities. We question if the University has considered this kind of restructuring, as opposed to breaking down departments into their various parts, for the departments involved in this plan.
Sixth, we are concerned with the extravagance of planned spending. While we understand that the original $2.5 million projected will come from grants, we worry about where funding for incidentals such as the prolongation of construction, as well as costs incurred during the transition, will come. We believe that it is fiscally unwise for the University to embark on such a project at a time when we are being asked to cut $19 million from our operating budget.
Finally, we would like to express our solidarity with department faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows in the aim of preserving departmental integrity.