The Acadia 2025 ideabook released just under a month ago contains numerous proposals for pushing the university into the 21st century.
Within the ideabook four major themes were identified: campus infrastructure and facilities, the academic core, the organization, and the region and local community.
During the course of the planning process, President Ricketts noted that Acadia needed a new ‘big idea’ following in the footsteps of the Acadia Advantage, which was celebrated internationally.
The ideabook matters because it informs the next stages of what Acadia will be pushing forward as institutional priorities: massive investments in the library, BAC, and SUB, new degree options, a new focus on retention, and a ‘Great Valley’ initiative that could fundamentally alter the region.
The ideabook notes that campus infrastructure is a top priority of the university. The Vaughan Memorial Library is at the top of the list, described as long overdue for an overhaul. The university has been hosting focus groups on the state of the library, with the process initiated by the Senate Library Committee in November 2017. This was followed by an editorial in The Athenaeum calling for the construction of a new library according to the Campus Master Plan.
The possibility of returning to the Campus Master Plan is noted as a possibility in the ideabook to guide development priorities and design. The ideabook notes that “the goal of everyone involved with developing the original plan was to create an aspirational road map to help planners, fundraisers, and donors imagine how Acadia’s physical infrastructure could be used for the benefit of students and delivering its programs”.
In addition, the BAC and SUB were identified as major priorities. It’s no surprise that the BAC was put at the top of the list- with the majority of Acadia students attending classes there and with the recent investment in Huggins Science Hall- it’s in desperate need of redevelopment. Justin Macleod’s 2016 article in The Athenaeum issue 79.2 aptly noted the discrepancy between funding of arts and sciences as “the state of the BAC is an accurate representation of not only the university’s feeling towards the arts, but also of the popular opinion that an arts degree is a waste of money and in the end worthless.”
Focusing on the students’ union building will be hugely beneficial for the university as a whole. However, under the ASU’s recent bylaw changes the SUB Renewal Committee- the student-centred committee dedicated to overseeing the evolution of the building- was cut, presumably leaving the development of the SUB up to the university and ASU executive. The ideabook writes that the SUB should embody a ‘student success centre’, with plans to fill in the gap between the Old and New SUB similar to the construction of the Huestis Innovation Pavilion. This has been described by some as a band-aid solution, failing to address the fundamental structural concerns at the heart of the SUB that were identified in the 2002 Campus Plan, describing the building as “inadequate for student use due to increased programming and serious maintenance and refurbishment needs, and is generally not of a quality consistent with a facility of this type at Acadia University or its peer institutions.”
The ideabook also mentions the development of more housing on campus for upper year students and young professors with families. This is not a new idea- the development of several new residences and the gradual move of upper year students onto campus was proposed at the turn of the century by the Campus Master Plan. Moving older students on campus through apartment and suite-styled residences may be the way to go forward if the university is hoping to increase its retention rate from 78.5% as of 2018.
What the Acadia 2025 Ideabook represents under the infrastructure chapter is the Campus Master Plan in all but name. The controversies associated with its biggest proponent, former President Dr. Kelvin Ogilvie, have presumably pushed the university from formally associating itself with the manifestation of his legacy. Yet the Acadia 2025 ideabook is proving that the Campus Plan is the right direction for the university. The university should push forward bravely instead of stepping on eggshells to avoid controversy and blaze its own path to create a unique Acadia experience.
Colin Mitchell is a fourth year (Honours) Politics student and Editor-in-Chief of The Athenaeum