MUN’s student spaces enable fun, enriching experiences. We should ensure demolished spaces are replaced in the best possible way.
It seems cliché to remark that an ideal university experience extends beyond the classroom. Organizations and activities at MUN expose students to interests, friends, and causes that can contribute more to their personal satisfaction than most courses. The success of these activities depends on the availability of suitable meeting spaces. And MUN is about to lose two such rooms.
The Loft and the Landing in the University Centre, specifically, seem to be at the end of their lives; a pedway planned for construction between the University Centre and the new science building requires their destruction. But students should fear not—the university’s architectural team is in talks with student representatives about how this loss may be compensated. This provides an opportunity for students to think about how these rooms’ replacements could best enable socializing, activism, gaming, debating, dancing, or any other activity that students would like to see on their campus.
Students have good reason to care about the Loft, the Landing, and their replacements. So far this year, these rooms have hosted numerous mixers, the elections for St. John’s Pride, dancing sessions, and charitable events. These sorts of gatherings help ensure that Memorial is more than a place where students study from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm each day, but rather a community in which students can make friends, discover new interests, develop their abilities, and help shape their society. Without the current suite of bookable spaces, organizers could have a harder time offering the events that make many people’s degree experiences enjoyable.
In preparing this article, I checked the schedule of the rooms slated for elimination. At the time I wrote this article on October 5, the Landing was booked for an event at some time every day in November 2015, save one. The same was true for the Loft, except that three days lacked bookings. Student life at MUN could be dependent on access to these spaces, given their popularity for booking. It is unclear where these events would go if the Landing and Loft became unavailable.
If students can’t find spaces to host activities and events, they may have little choice but to stop organizing such meetings or to downsize them. Because I take satisfaction from attending a university at which students have the resources to pursue their interests, the prospect that groups could be left competing for fewer and less appropriate spaces disheartens me.
But I am similarly encouraged by the prospect that new spaces could enable student activities that the current ones cannot. New audio systems or improved acoustic could possibly let student singers and dancers achieve higher artistic peaks without spending wads of cash on booking rooms specifically designed for music. Perhaps improved lighting arrangements could give comedians, improvisers, and actors better opportunities to practice with each other. And maybe new stage and seating layouts could let activists and debaters spread their messages to more people in more effective ways.
Given the importance of student spaces and the possibility of improved new ones, MUN students should ask themselves which features they’d like to see in the Loft’s and the Landing’s replacements. Although student union representatives are currently discussing how lost spaces will be compensated for with MUN’s architectural team, those with thoughts on this matter should not solely share them with MUNSU. Ultimately, the university itself is responsible for costly renovations and investments in buildings. We have little reason to distrust the administration’s suggestion that it seeks to make up for the lost space. But students could do little harm by placing pressure on MUN’s leadership to ensure that the Loft and Landing have replacements before they’re destroyed and that students are broadly consulted before construction plans for new venues are finalised.
MUN’s new science building is under construction and MUN students could lose their cherished spaces sooner than they may think. It is time for the university’s administration to start reaching out to students to ask them how they would like the Loft and the Landing to be replaced. And it is time for students to not only ensure the university will replace these spaces before their destruction, but also to begin thinking about how they would respond to consultation about how the spaces will be replaced. Their answers could determine the ability of students to have enjoyable, fruitful extracurricular lives for years—if not decades—to come.