Walk hard to new Bader Centre

The Isabel Bader Centre may not be the most convenient facility for students

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Charlotte Orzel, ArtSci ’14

This September, Queen’s will open the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on the shores of Lake Ontario between main and West campuses. The Centre was a $63 million gift from donors Alfred and Isabel Bader and will provide incredible facility upgrades for the students of film, drama, music and fine arts.

But how many students will make it to the building on time for their first week of classes?

The Centre is located between 10 minutes (from Chernoff Hall) and 19 minutes (from Dupuis Hall) on foot from main campus. With the tight turnaround between classes, this travel time is a significant problem. Students could be forced to regularly miss up to 10 minutes of class or more, depending on weather conditions.

City transit does little to shorten the trip, because bus times don’t usually coincide with class changeovers and few buses travel along King St. Taking poor sidewalk conditions into account, along with the film equipment and instruments that film and music students need to carry, and the lack of crosswalk on King St., this becomes not only a scheduling problem, but a safety issue. For students with mobility issues, the difficulties and risks may be even greater.

Once students do arrive, they’ll find that the building and immediate area are missing food options. While the Isabel Bader Centre has a small space meant for catering during performances, there won’t be food available on a daily basis.

In an email to faculty and lower-level administrators in February, the Provost and the Dean of Arts and Science offered a meagre response to these concerns. Neither large-scale transportation accommodation nor food options will be considered for the new building.

While they insist the distance between the building and main campus is comparable to the distance between Dupuis Hall and Chernoff Hall, this is only true of a few buildings nearest to the Centre.

Snow clearance and a crosswalk are in negotiations with the City, but the outcomes from those discussions are far from certain. The administation’s assurance that the Registrar will be able to make scheduling arrangements to accommodate students from all four departments frankly seems unfeasible.

The fine arts, music, drama and film faculties have discussed both food and transportation options with administrators for four years and were told that solutions were viable. This makes the Provost’s decision, coming only a few months before the building is set to open, a shock and disappointment.

Neither the Dean of Arts and Science nor the Provost has met with students to explain their decision or discuss possible alternatives and consequences. That students were informed at all is due to the commitment of department faculties to this issue and their communication with departmental student councils.

Of course, there are ways for students to minimize the damage. Choosing classes to avoid back-to-back transitions between main campus and the Isabel Bader Centre is one way of doing so.

Yet anyone who has navigated SOLUS recently knows these decisions are often made for you. With the needs of hundreds of other students taken into account, there’s little hope that core courses won’t be scheduled back-to-back in the separate locations.

When there’s a choice in the matter, is it really fair to make performing arts students sacrifice courses that truly interest them so they can get to the Centre without leaving class early or walking in late? Or, if they choose otherwise, to regularly cut part of a class, and risk missing important information, losing grades or damaging their relationship with professors?

Packing a lunch is an option for food, but on days when students need groceries, are in a rush or have to go directly from class to work or an extracurricular, being able to grab something healthy to eat can make a huge difference in attitude and attentiveness. Every student will have a few days when they’ll have to skip a meal.

The bottom line is that the lack of accommodations will put performing arts students at a disadvantage. Putting the onus on students to make this bad situation workable is not only unfair, but insulting. This is because the money the University is denying students comes straight from their pockets, despite the fact the decision to deny these services was made without their input.

Organizing a shuttle between the Isabel Bader Centre or negotiating modifications to existing city transit routes is a necessary investment to put performing arts students back on equal footing with their peers.

While the new building can’t accommodate a full-service cafeteria, subsidizing a food cart with healthy pre-made options for a few years while the JK Tett Centre next door (which has included a cafe in its plans) finishes construction is a reasonable compromise to keep students and staff fed.

The Baders’ gift, which was supposed to benefit performing arts disciplines, might easily have the opposite effect due to the University’s short-sightedness.

Without the provision of necessary services, these departments could see a drop in enrolment in coming years, particularly among minor concentrators.

While fine arts and music majors may not know about these problems until they arrive, drama and film concentrators decide their majors and minors in second year

and will likely take these issues into account when making their choices. When the performing arts departments suffer as a result of the University’s decision, their reputation outside the Queen’s community will eventually follow suit.

On Friday, March 14 at 3 p.m., a group of concerned performing arts students will be marching from the Biosciences Complex on 116 Barrie St. to the Isabel Bader Centre at 390 King St. to demonstrate their position to university administrators.

I’d like to encourage all performing arts concentrators and anyone else who wishes to stand in solidarity with us to make their opinion known to the University’s administration, either by joining us in the protest or contacting them directly.

Charlotte is a third-year film major and a member of the film departmental student council.

Isabel Bader Centre email

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