The future of student life spaces at Queen’s

What is going to happen with the JDUC?

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Illustration by Stephanie Jiang

Despite being the home of many student services such as the P&CC, The Brew, Tricolour Outlet and Queen’s Pub, the JDUC has never truly acted as a hub for student life on campus. 

After years of consultation, the AMS and SGPS proposed the $62.3-million JDUC revitalization project that would’ve secured 8,800 square feet of new study space and 3,200 square feet of new club space for students. 

In order to move forward and secure funding for the project, the AMS and SGPS needed to pass a referendum to create a new student fee to fund the project. While the SGPS passed a $40 fee, the $89 AMS fee failed by a small margin. 

With an uncertain future, The Journal looks back at the history of the JDUC and wonders what is to come. 

Before the corner of Union and University served as the home of the JDUC, it was as an orphanage that provided housing and education for hundreds of orphans and disadvantaged children. In 1927, the Orphans Home was purchased by Queen’s University. 

In 1929, the building was re-opened under a new name after two years of renovations. The Student Memorial Union building was named in commemoration of the students who died while fighting in the First World War.  

Initially, the building was a men’s club because women were banned from almost all of the rooms. It wasn’t until the mid-50s that most of the rooms started opening up to women, with the exception of Wallace Hall (where women were banned until 1960). 

Due to a large fire in the main part of the building, in 1947 a large part of the existing Student Memorial Union was re-built. To this day, this portion of the now-JDUC — situated on Union St. — has externally remained untouched.

In 1964, the back wing of the building was added, which included graduate student residences and the International Centre. 

In 1974, the Erickson Wing — the northern portion on University Ave., which now houses Khao and Tri-Colour — was added. It was around this time the building was renamed from the Student Memorial Union to the John Deutch University Centre. It was named after then-University President John Deutsch . 

Although the name has changed, the JDUC still has remnants of a war memorial. Located in the Upper Ceilidh of the building, the small and beautiful Memorial Room features two large bronze plaques that have inscriptions of the names of the dead Queen’s students from World War 1, a stone arch and seven oil paintings by Toronto artist Marion Long that display the men and women from each branch of the Canadian forces. 

In 2005, Queen’s main campus was expecting to see a major overhaul in the form of the Queen’s Centre Project. As part of phase three of the Project, the JDUC was supposed to be replaced by a new $24-million student life centre. 

Unfortunately, due to the global financial crisis in 2008 and serious planning issues, the project was cancelled in 2011. With phase one being the only one finished — which consists of the ARC — phase two and three of the project were never completed. This meant the $24-million Student Life Centre revitalization never came to life. 

Although the project was incomplete, this didn’t mean there would be no new improvements to the student life building. In 2015, the AMS made upgrades to the building, the last in the JDUC to date. According to a Journal article, the project was financed by a “$1.2 million fund collected through the Queen’s Student Centre fee that constituted the AMS’s capital contribution to Phase 1 of the Queen’s Centre.” 

An agreement between the AMS and the University required that these funds had to be used by April 2015. In the end, this meant they improved the washrooms on the first floor of the JDUC, added a new universal washroom, new fans, a new skylight in the Upper Ceilidh and a restoration of Wallace Hall. 

Since then, the revitalization of the JDUC has been a huge priority for both the AMS and SGPS. After years of consultation and time spent at the negotiation table with the University, both societies secured a historic agreement to redevelop the JDUC for $62.3-million. 

As outlined in an opinion piece written by AMS President Jennifer Li, the University would have committed “almost $20 million in direct and alumni contributions towards the project.”

“Over time, such an integral building on campus hasn’t done a good enough job of contributing to the student life experience. [The JDUC has] failed to meet basic needs for our student services and thus limited the potential services provided to [students],” Li said in a recent article published in The Journal

“We need a JDUC that all students, regardless of faculty or year of study, can call home. A place where our whole community can come together, whether it’s grabbing a drink at QP or printing off an essay at P&CC,” she said in an email to The Journal

In a special referendum from Feb. 12-13, the AMS proposed an $89 non-reviewable student fee that would supplement the University’s $20 million contribution to the $62.3-million project. According to Li, this was the lowest possible price, and students wouldn’t have paid until construction started. 

Despite an extensive marketing campaign, the Feb 12-13 AMS special referendum — which saw a 20.8 per cent turnout — failed with a narrow 51.1 per cent ‘no’ vote, with a 20.8 per cent turnout. The SGPS’ didn’t collect the fee, which passed with a 1,065 to 332 vote in favour of the revitalization. 

On Feb. 15, Li told The Journal in an interview that “the project is not at a standstill.”

“There is support, just not on these terms. We need to go back to the drawing board and understand what students will vote in favour for,” she said at the time.

To address this failure, the AMS has put out a survey to collect student responses that will be put into an action plan. 

According to a recent interview with The Journal, Li said this information will shape how the AMS moves forward with the project when they put forward another referendum in the fall of 2018.  

Although the redevelopment project’s future is uncertain, according to Li, the future “JDUC redevelopment will transform the student experience at Queen’s and ensure that generations of students to come will benefit from the same high quality student experience that we have enjoyed and Queen’s has always been known for.”

According to SGPS President Adam Grotsky, Law ’19, the JDUC project is also very important to the graduate community on campus. 

“The original campaign that we ran, the pitch was that a vote for the JDUC was a vote for a graduate student wing in the building which would allow students to have social space, study space just a place to congregate.” 

Despite the AMS JDUC fee failing in a recent referendum, Grotsky sees the revitalization of the JDUC as central to maintaining Queen’s reputation for excellent student experience. 

“We are right now known for our student experience,” he told The Journal, “but we don’t hold that reputation permanently. 

Other schools across not just Ontario but Canada have built brand new student life spaces. 

UBC has done it, Ryerson did it, McMaster did it. These [schools] are our competitors. The longer we hold off on creating space for the 21st century student body, the longer we jeopardize our reputation as the premier student experience in Canada.” 

 

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