Neglecting campus buildings is neglecting students and faculty

The value we bring needs to be reflected in the quality of our facilities.

Students and faculty are no strangers to the chaos of a new semester. Whether we can’t find the right textbook, or we’re getting lost on our way to class, the first couple weeks are always an adjustment.

With the recent disruptions in the Humanities Centre (HC), Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA), and Tory Building, students and faculty are dealing with a different kind of chaos. Students can’t use certain classrooms or entire buildings because the University of Alberta isn’t maintaining them.

After years of neglect from the university and the government, it seems like the U of A is falling apart. Students and professors are feeling frustrated and concerned as the HC closure makes the new semester even more difficult. The university has a responsibility for the safety of students and faculty, but also to the quality of their experience. Currently, it’s failing on both accounts. 

The frustration of students and faculty is justified, especially in the face of the 2023-24 tuition increases and the proposed raise for the next year. It isn’t fair for the university to expect students to pay more for less — yet that’s what’s happening. Students and faculty deserve quality education and services, but that can’t happen if buildings are falling apart. The U of A should prioritize maintaining and fixing deteriorating buildings. But, they shouldn’t have to on their own — the Government of Alberta should be helping. Continual funding cuts from the provincial government is only making it more difficult for the university to maintain its buildings.

As a result, the amount of problems with the university’s facilities is growing. And with it, so is the cost and liability.

Whether it’s buckets catching leaks in buildings or elevators breaking down, it seems like there is always something wrong with the facilities. This isn’t unexpected due to the significant amount of deferred maintenance accumulated by the U of A year after year. But, it’s still unacceptable. The more maintenance that the university puts off, the more problems students and faculty face. And, the more difficult and expensive it is to fix.

Much of the deferred maintenance is because of a lack of severity and urgency. However, the U of A shouldn’t make a habit of pushing-off maintenance until it reaches a critical point. Yet here we are. The U of A needs to be addressing things like leaks before they become floods.

However, both ECHA and Tory suffered flooding after pipes burst during the January cold-snap. On the heels of the HC fire, displacing over a hundred classes created an even more widespread strain on students and faculty. Luckily, most of the flooding should be resolved quickly  — then again, that was the idea with the HC fire. The university hasn’t done much to inspire faith in their ability to prevent or address maintenance issues. Meanwhile, the provincial government is doing little to help or even acknowledge the issue. 

Despite the U of A being a publicly-funded institution, it is receiving little assistance from the province as problems with facilities accumulate. The government’s cuts to funding means the university has less help in covering the costs of maintaining its buildings. This leaves students and faculty to make do with continuous issues while shouldering the reputation of the university. The government should be doing more to support U of A students and faculty in their invaluable work. There are no excuses to not do so with a whopping $5.5 billion projected surplus. The government should be helping the university, especially as it looks to grow its numbers and improve its reputation.

The U of A’s strategic plan, SHAPE, seeks to improve the university’s national and international rankings, which depends on students and faculty. Yet, the university is looking at the possibility of removing some buildings altogether instead of fixing and maintaining them. The U of A is brushing the needs of current students and faculty aside. These are the same current students and faculty who uphold the university’s reputation. The university is expecting students to pay more and faculty to do more with less.

The U of A’s significantly boosts Alberta’s economy by $19.4 billion annually. It seems unfair that the university is boosting the economy for Alberta, but the provincial government isn’t prioritizing the infrastructure that supports students and faculty, who then contribute to this boost.

Both the U of A and the provincial government need to realize that the value of the university’s reputation and research comes from the current students and faculty. They need adequate facilities to learn and conduct research in.

Right now, what we have isn’t cutting it. Not when there seems to be a never-ending list of issues with campus facilities that are ignored until it’s dangerous. The university needs to address existing problems and prevent future ones instead of leaving students and faculty to cope with hazards and hindrances.

Leah Hennig

Leah is the 2024-25 Opinion Editor! She is in her first year studying English and media studies. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting, and missing her dog while drinking too much coffee.

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