As I’m sure the entire campus community is aware, starting this summer, Nicholson Hall will be demolished and a new 40 million dollar building will take its place. This facility will be state of the art and bear former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s name. This new center is badly needed as the current state of Nicholson Hall is decrepit.
The long-term benefits of the Mulroney Institute are far reaching. Not only will it integrate campus (bye-bye Nicholson stairs) but it will offer students an exceptional learning space. It will also help to put StFX on the map. This building is something we will be known for, and I am quite pleased that my political science degree will carry more weight when attached to a Prime Minister’s name.
However, all this good comes at a cost. In order to reap the immense benefits the Mulroney Institute has to offer, we essentially have to live through two years of hell. And no matter what the administration says, yes, it will be hell.
Construction will be a massive effort, and even though demolition and the start of construction will take place during the summer, it will continue throughout the entirety of the 2017-2018 school year and is slated to be finished half way through the 2019 school year.
This means very loud, very large machinery will be operating in the center of campus at all hours of the day. According to the presentation which unveiled the plan to students, this machinery will be parked in the lot behind the Wheel. It’s fairly solid speculation that these cranes, trucks and heavy equipment will be driving past Schwartz, the library, Lane and Immaculata in order to get to present Nicholson Hall on a fairly consistent basis, disrupting everyone within those buildings.
Some will say “buck up, we can deal with some noise.” This is true, I’m sure we can get used to the noise. What I know we can’t deal with is an additional lack of parking, every StFX students’ number one complaint. During the construction period, the parking lot between St. Ninian’s and Nicholson Hall will be completely eliminated. Obviously, this will contribute to StFX’s ever growing parking predicament. As there has been no word yet as to how the lack of parking spaces will be resolved, it is clear that if you use a car on campus, you can expect chaos.
Alternatively, even after construction is completed the future of parking on campus is unclear. StFX wants to move towards a more “pedestrian friendly” campus. These sentiments were echoed in the unveiling presentation. Plans include more sidewalks and less access for cars on campus. It is understandable why the university wants this transition to happen, as it is safer and makes for a prettier brochure, yet even so it is extremely inconvenient to those who use cars.
Probably the most chaotic aspect of the construction period will be classes and where to hold them. With the destruction of StFX’s main classroom space, alternatives for the next two years must be found. In addition to the Registrar’s office reorganizing the time-table to stagger classes better, the administration hopes to use buildings such as Schwartz and JBB to capacity. Yet the question must be asked, is that enough?
The idea of using “portables,” described by some as “tents” and “trailers,” as classrooms does not sit well with me, however the university is open to using them. Before we resort to that though, I implore university officials to use every last square inch of available space. Not only should every academic building be used to the upmost capacity, non-traditional learning spaces should be used.
I’d rather have a class in a second floor KMC conference room than in a trailer. Of course these rooms may be booked at times but it makes hardly any sense to leave them empty when available.
The final potential negative aspect of the Mulroney Institute during its construction is whether it will be completed on time and budget. I am no construction professional so I don’t know whether to believe a company when they say they can get it built by December 2019 or not. Given this building’s size and stature however, I err on the side of doubt.
If this project is not completed on time, students currently in 2nd year and higher will never see this building completed unless they tour it on homecoming as an alumni, which of course is a shame given the sense of pride this institute will instill upon our community.
Budgetary concerns are also a huge aspect of whether or not the construction process will be remembered as siding on the negative or positive side. On January 29th, Professor Khoury (the faculty representative on SU council) stated during a council meeting that the university is running a 2.2 million dollar deficit.
I think it is safe to say that if this project does not stay on budget it will cause a few headaches and worries. And I’m sure the student body would not be happy if costs were passed to them via tuition hikes.
All and all, I am greatly looking forward to the completion of the Mulroney Institute. It will serve our school and community immeasurably well, yet we will all sacrifice convenience and peace in the midst of this grand transformation.