Graduate students displaced to hotel

Students spend second year in a row at Confederation Place

Confederation Place is located near Ontario St. and Princess St.
Image by: Supplied
Confederation Place is located near Ontario St. and Princess St.

Jessica Donen said she didn’t realize she would be living in Confederation Place Hotel until the week before she arrived at Queen’s.

For Donen, Law ’16, and a few of her fellow graduate students, the suite life has become a reality — a lack of residence space has caused some students to spend another school year in a hotel.

“If I wanted to go on a meal plan, I’m a 25 to 30 minute walk from campus. I’m allowed to have a mini fridge, but I can’t even have a kettle or a microwave, so that’s frustrating,” Donen said. “It’s not even close to a bus route.”

The Confederation Place Hotel in downtown Kingston is currently home to approximately 60 Queen’s students, and has been since Sept 2012 — with no signs of change anytime soon.

Donen, who described the hotel as a “grungier, two-star facility,” said she was comfortable with other aspects of the residence, but the location is her strongest grievance.

Iain Reeve, President of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students, said that the situation is beginning to appear more permanent.

“We had a contract from last year that has been extended for at least another year. It is still ideally a temporary solution, but it’s starting to look more like a medium term solution until they find some other arrangement,” he said.

Graduate students previously occupied the JDUC, which is now comprised of first-year undergraduate students. As a result, graduate students were then displaced to residences outside of the main campus area last year.

Reeve said that students who are moving in are sometimes unaware that being designated a hotel room is an irregular occurrence.

“Most students going into the hotel didn’t necessarily know that it was a new thing, or an alternative. It was just an option that was extended to them and they took it,” he said.

The hotel has been close to full student capacity since Queen’s adopted it as a residence in 2012.

A report released by Urban Strategies, a Toronto urban design firm, concluded that Queen’s does possess enough land space to introduce further expansion to accommodate a potential increase in student population.

Following the report, two new residences on campus, by Stuart St. and Albert St., are set to begin construction by 2013, a project which has faced delay. The project has been met with harsh criticism from the Kingston community over its size, appearance and building congestion in the area.

Reeve said that the decision to extend the contract with Confederation Place was made by the Department of Student Affairs, who couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.

Regardless of the distance, Reeve said that most students aren’t particularly discontented with their living arrangements at Confederation Place.

“A lot of them have actually been pretty satisfied with it. In an ideal circumstance you’d find a better, permanent option,” he said. “But pragmatically given where we’re at now, it’s not the worst thing in the world. It’s better than not having housing at all.”

Pietro Giampa, a graduate physics student and PhD candidate, said he’s generally impressed with the Confederation.

“Some people are a bit put off by the distance, some people are not. In terms of residences people seem quite pleased,” he said. “The only downside is that you only have a kitchen on the second floor.”

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