AMS raises concerns on enrolment plans

Report recommends University reconfigure residences and introduce class size caps

Allison Williams, the AMS academic affairs commissioner, drafted the enrolment paper passed in Saturday’s special assembly.
Allison Williams, the AMS academic affairs commissioner, drafted the enrolment paper passed in Saturday’s special assembly.
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The AMS is calling for the University to hold off on increasing enrolment, according to a report passed at a special AMS Assembly on Saturday.

The report follows an announcement made by the office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) on Sept. 18 that urged campus stakeholders to submit feedback in light of a projected enrolment increase.

The paper recommends that the University administration revert residence rooms, previously used as common rooms, back to their original purpose.

In response, the report says that the administration should utilize the two new proposed residences to accommodate the projected influx in students, in order to ease overcrowding.

As a result, graduate students would then be housed in the JDUC, as opposed to Confederation Place Hotel in downtown Kingston where some currently reside.

It also suggests the introduction of a capping policy for class sizes, and recommends that the University remain mid-sized.

Between 2008 and 2012, the University increased enrolment by 1,700 students. Ninety per cent live in residence in first year, which means rooms originally holding vending machines and pianos were converted into bedrooms.

“Without a common room there is no place for the students to share space together,” Allison Williams, AMS academic affairs commissioner, said. “The sense of community in residences is one of the most important things for first-year students.”

Williams, who drafted the document, moved it to Assembly.

She said she met with Provost and Vice-Principal, Alan Harrison, faculty deans and student leaders to develop the list of recommendations.

Williams said the paper had to be rushed through Assembly so AMS President Eril Berkok could present it to the Strategic Enrolment Management Group on Sept. 24.

She said capping class sizes is another issue she wants to be addressed, as is the possibility of hiring teaching-focused faculty.

According to Williams, enrolment in a first-year health studies class has exceeded the capacity of the lecture hall.

“They can’t fit everyone into a lecture hall where the teacher is lecturing,” she said. “110 of them are watching the lecture via video in the room next to the lecture hall.”

Eleanor MacLean, ArtSci ’17, who lives in Jean Royce Hall on West Campus, said her residence building doesn’t have a common room.

She said the closest common room is in Phase 1 of Jean Royce Hall, which is a separate building from her residence in Phase 2.

“Basically either my whole floor doesn’t hang out, or we go into the double rooms, which used to be common rooms, but they were converted this year,” she said.

Catherine Wright, the municipal affairs commissioner for the AMS, wrote the final section of the paper on the effects of increased enrolment on the housing in the University District.

Wright said competition for housing has reduced the quality of housing while increasing prices and that increasing enrolment could aggravate the situation.

She said many of the houses suffer from mold, frequent flooding, poor insulation and inadequate locks on windows and doors ― yet are rarely renovated by the owners.

“Unfortunately, a lot of landlords don’t want to put in the investment,” she said.

She said Queen’s should focus on the development of purpose-built student housing. She named Varsity Properties as an example of housing specifically designed for students.

“We need to give a model to private developers, and get more involved in these private developments,” she said.

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