Is campus crowded?

This September has brought a greater number of students to Wilfrid Laurier University than in years past and the perception that campus is more crowded than ever before has emerged among those fighting the lines and encountering hallways flooded with students.

“I wouldn’t say it’s extreme,” said Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) president Kyle Walker, “but it has definitely become more of a problem over the years that I’ve been here, this year especially.”

When asked if the campus itself is overcrowded, however, assistant vice-president of physical resources Gary Nower replied, “I’m not aware of any overcrowding, where is there overcrowding?”

“They can deny that there’s overcrowding but when you put together a 25-year plan to address it, clearly you’re admitting at that point that there’s overcrowding,” said Walker.

He referred to the campus master plan completed last year, which charts development at the university projected over the next two decades.

A space utilization report conducted by the university stated that the only deficiency was a shortage of larger lecture halls.

According to Nower, “Other than that our classrooms are utilized quite well right now.”

Aware of the prospects of a crowded campus, Laurier president Max Blouw said, “We’re adding to space, in the meanwhile we’re recognizing that the numbers are up again and we know that we need to more effectively utilize the space.”

Blouw explained that being short of space is something that comes in bursts. “You run quite short and then you get a new, big building and you have a fair bit, and then you get some more growth and then you’re short again,” he said.

There are going to be more students each year and buildings take time to construct. “The buildings come in step functions whereas the growth itself is fairly smooth.”

Areas where students congregate have been pinpointed as places on campus where crowding is more visible. New development forecasted in the campus master plan will address space issues.

This includes the expansion of the Arts building to create what will be called the “learning commons” and the construction of the Global Innovation Exchange building on the St. Michaels campus north of University Avenue.

Nower described the learning commons as a solution to shortages of communal areas. “That would all be student-focused space,” he said, including study space, student services and areas reminiscent of the current concourse. “It would be much bigger than the concourse and seem less crowded.”

The learning commons would provide a single area for student services and other groups including student publications, according to director of student services Dan Dawson.

“All of us … are busting at the seams and there’s nowhere to go,” he said.

The reality of the situation is that in the face of unprecedented growth, infrastructure cannot be built overnight. Most current Laurier students will have graduated before construction begins on the St. Michael’s campus, one of the first initiatives identified in the campus master plan.

“My point of view is that it would be close to five years before we’re likely to see anything [built],” Dawson said.

Asked whether there is an absolute maximum number of students that could be physically accommodated at this campus, Blouw said, “There’s always a physical cap but … nowhere near to where we are right now.”

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