Trailer park of excellence?

By Ivan Danielewicz

The first month of school is always tough on students, but imagine walking into your class to find that you’re forced to sit on the floor because there isn’t enough space. Also imagine finding out that you can’t register for a class because there aren’t enough sections offered. Over-crowded classes have become a problem on campus and many students are left wondering what the university will do about it.

“In some cases the size of the classes are a problem,” remarked Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Laura Schultz. “I remember walking into a class in Science Theaters and seeing students sitting on the floor because there wasn’t enough seats.”

The university has recognized that this has become a problem also. In 2001, the ICT Building opened with brand new lecture halls. However, this didn’t stop the university from continuing to use portable ATCO trailers as temporary classrooms.

“The university recognizes the fact that we are far beyond capacity,” explained Roman Cooney, VP External Relations for the University of Calgary. “However, the university has been taking steps to decrease class sizes and increase the number of teachers available.”

The university’s Access Initiative put $2├é┬ámillion into reducing class sizes last year. This initiative primarily focused on classes in the Social Sciences and Sciences departments.

“Class sizes are no longer the only problem, oversized labs are also a problem now,” stated Schultz. “There’s also been a ton of complaints from students in the Haskayne School of Business and students trying to get into Accounting 317.”

Cooney feels that the university administration is taking steps to resolve these problems and create a better environment for students.

“If the university could remove the portables tomorrow, we would,” said Cooney. “Unfortunately we can’t. We realize that nobody likes the portables and we are taking steps to remove them as soon as possible.

“One alternative is to admit fewer students. However, we are trying to make education available to as many people as possible,” he continued.

Cooney gave these remarks two years ago when the problem of trailers was first brought forward. At that time he agreed that the university had over-extended itself. Little appears to have changed since.

Schultz agrees that the class sizes are too big.

“The class sizes are being overloaded to try and accommodate all the students who need to take them,” argued Schultz. “I do believe the faculties are doing their best to accommodate all the students but they just don’t have enough funding.”

The university has been under financial pressure since its 2002 defecit to slash millions from its budget.

“Last year the Students’ Union did a survey and found the 97.1 per cent of the student surveyed felt that class sizes were too big,” Schultz added. “More funding will improve the class situation.”

In the short term, there doesn’t appear to be any quick fix. Class sizes will continue to be a problem until there are more fund allocated to fixing the problem. U of C administration has stated that this is a serious problem but students will have to wait to see when and what solutions will be put in place.

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