It’s time for a new JDUC. It’s time to vote yes

Referendum on Feb. 12 and 13 to decide future of our student life centre

What the AMS hopes for the JDUC in the years to come.
What the AMS hopes for the JDUC in the years to come.
Credit: 
Supplied by AMS Communications

After years of negotiations and hard work, the AMS has finally secured a historic agreement with the University to redevelop the JDUC. 

Not only have we reached a deal where students won’t begin to pay until construction starts, but we’ve also ensured we pay the lowest possible price annually beginning in the 2019-20 academic year. 

Students aren’t the only ones paying; the University won’t only front the entire $62.3-million project cost, but they’ve also committed almost $20 million in direct and alumni contributions towards the project.

It’s important to me that students have the final say, so that’s why we’re calling a referendum on Feb. 12 and 13. 

The AMS will campaign for a non-reviewable student activity fee pegged at $89 per student starting in the 2019-20 academic year. If approved, we’ll hire a functional programmer to assess current spaces and consult with you to determine how we can maximize the space. Ultimately, you’ll shape how the JDUC works for students today and tomorrow.

While students will shape the JDUC in its entirety, the University will support its implementation. Professionals in Campus Planning and Physical Plant Services will lead the project and oversee its implementation to guarantee stability and certainty during the process. 

I wrote this article because I wanted to talk about the future of the JDUC and what that means for the student experience, university traditions and the value of our degree.

But before we talk about that, we must remember the past. In 2005, we were promised a modernized student life building through the Queen’s Centre project. 

Amidst serious planning issues exacerbated by a global economic meltdown, that project was officially cancelled in 2011. 

We were shortchanged: at a world-class university, we had to settle for second-best. Over time, such an integral building on campus hasn’t done a good enough job of contributing to the student life experience. It’s failed to meet basic needs for our student services and thus limited the potential services provided to you. For students with different abilities, it was a monument to mediocrity and just wasn’t working.

It’s time we fix these issues and reclaim our place as a top university that brings together the best students in Canada and across the globe.

Over the last few years, the AMS has made one fact clear to Queen’s: the JDUC must be updated to meet the needs students have today. We didn’t arrive at this position overnight; we did so through work over several years and listening to what our peers told us. 

Universities around us have upgraded their facilities through student contributions. These institutions — UBC, McMaster, Waterloo, Ryerson, York — aren’t just catching up to us, they’ve surpassed us. They know that world-class facilities attract the best students, and so they’ve invested in areas we’ve neglected, like club space and flexible study spaces.

If we do nothing — if we stay within the status quo — we risk waking up to a reality where other universities will be deemed better at offering a world-class student experience.

This also has implications on the value of a Queen’s degree. We’re lucky enough to have an amazing group of alumni who work in every corner of the globe and at the highest of levels. The prestige of that network relies on the health of the Queen’s community here in Kingston. Alumni are ready, willing and able to fund this project, and with your endorsement, they will.

This redevelopment will give our clubs more space and facilities to expand the Queen’s experience. For too long, our 250 clubs have had to make do with less. As they expand along with our on-campus societies, they often don’t get the high-quality space they deserve.

Redeveloping the JDUC will ensure  students of all abilities can access the building and experience the traditions within it. From hanging out at the Queen’s Pub, to ringing the thesis gong at the P&CC, to picking up a sweater for younger siblings at Tricolour Outlet, we want to make these traditions work for everyone and deliver a better experience to all.

On tradition, I want to note that the new JDUC will both preserve our heritage and make it more practical for everyday student use. We’ve worked closely with the architect to ensure the building retains heritage elements. As a result of the consultation,  the bulk of change will occur in the industrial concrete wing at the back of the JDUC. 

Queen’s students already pay a lot to attend this institution — I understand that. But these same individuals also have a long tradition of student led change. Everywhere you look — from the Queen’s Centre, to 

Grant Hall, to our Oil Thigh — students before us spearheaded and seized opportunities to make their mark on campus.

In that spirit, we must take action today in order to maintain our traditions, improve accessibility and secure our student experience for the generations that will come after us.

I hope you’ll join me in voting yes to a new JDUC on Feb. 12 and 13.

Jennifer Li is a fifth-year history student and is the President of the AMS. 

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