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Computer Science Building struggles with space

It’s getting crowded on the top level of the Computer Science Building. Already small compared to the other floors, the fourth floor recently became home to the College of Sustainability.

It’s not much space for the new department and it is taking away space for the Computer Science Department, say students and staff from both faculties.

“No one seems to be really happy right now,” says Alan Shaver, VP (academic and provost), about the space allocation. “The (Environment, Sustainability and Society) students feel that they’re really crammed and the Computer Science Faculty feel that they’re losing something.”

The College of Sustainability is home to the new major: Environment, Sustainability and Society. The interdisciplinary program currently offers a first-year core course and will offer upper-year courses in upcoming years. The remaining electives are cross-listed with other departments. Last summer, the dean of the Computer Science Department agreed to let the college move in to the fourth floor.

Space is an issue across the university’s campus. Fenwick building was sold last year, leaving less housing options for students. Meanwhile, many campus parents have complained about the lack of available daycare services.

“Space doesn’t change, but the needs and demands do,” says Shaver. “This is always true of universities.”

Thomas Trappenberg, professor of computational neuroscience, says he’s concerned about the Computer Science Building’s loss of space. He says he could use more space to conduct experiments.

“I do understand that there are needs in the new program, which is something we should always take into account when we think about budgeting for a new program,” he says, but adds he does not understand why the College of Sustainability was chosen when many older departments need space.

Shaver says one reason is the new program’s popularity. The university only expected about 150 students in the program, but enrolment is twice that, at 300. Computer Science, on the other hand, has seen an enrolment decrease since the program launched in 1997.

More space is needed not just to accommodate that influx of students, but to prepare for more students in upcoming years, says Shaver.

“We have a new unit that we had to get off to a good start,” says Shaver. “So this is why it was pushed forward.”

Shaver says a medical research group moved up to the fourth floor last year. Now, that group might move out and plans for that space are up in the air.

Shaver says Facilities Management has requested a list of needs requirements from the Computer Science and Environment, Sustainability and Society faculties. The management will assess the space requirements for each. The president and VP (finance and administration) are also involved in the planning.

Shaver says the Computer Science Department will get more space next summer after the New Academic Building on Coburg is completed.

The Canadian Foundation of Innovation is funding the Computer Science Department in this new building. The foundation funded the Computer Science Building when it was built in 1999, but Shaver says they won’t fund the department on the fourth floor anymore. Shaver says that’s partly why the dean of the Computer Science Department, Mike Shepherd, decided to allow other groups into that space.

Shepherd would not give details on the space allocation issue.

“It’s very political,” was all he would say.

Alison Shaver, Shaver’s wife, also works in the College of Sustainability. But Shaver says he has only worked alongside the dean of the department regarding space planning.

More space is needed for interdisciplinary programs, Shaver says, adding that the Institute for Research in Materials also takes up space on the fourth floor.

“I very much agree with that and I would say, therefore, that we should try to work on the interdisciplinary space,” adds Trappenberg.

“What I personally just don’t understand is why this program got singled out in a very short time to get the resources, which many other programs have demanded for years.”

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