A group of Northwest Community College students say they’re frustrated at being denied the chance to speak to its governing board regarding proposed changes to the library at its Terrace campus.
The student group wanting to present was placed on the agenda for last week’s board meeting but was removed after college administrators considered the situation resolved.
Their follow up request to speak and put forward an altered motion was denied by board chair Herb Pond, saying the issue isn’t within the board’s mandate. In a letter to students’ union at the college, Pond described the matter as an “operating issue” and one best suited for college president Ken Burt.
Proposals to move or downsize the library have been a source of contention for more than a year, drawing opposition from students who regard it as a valuable resource and place of study.
Adelle Jonker, a social work student heavily involved in the student’s library lobby group, said the decision to deny students from speaking to the board was confusing and frustrating.
“It was very important for us to give the board of governors a student perspective… to tell what students feel about it,” Jonker said, adding that they tried multiple ways to get a chance to present their concerns to the board, but they weren’t allowed.
She says students feel the library is under threat because proposals have been raised to alter or move the service twice in the last year. First it was a proposal last spring to move the library into the longhouse, and then an option to downsize the facility by half was included in a college-wide consultation meeting in January, where plans to renovate the college’s trades building were unveiled.
The option was one of two options put forward to staff and students regarding plans to accommodate the trades building renovation, and information was sparse about which changes were temporary and which would be permanent.
Caption: Students Sandra Hadjirul, Carmen Hooge and Gurveer Kaur study together at the Northwest Community College library.
“The library is well used,” Jonker emphasized, explaining that a lot of students do group work there and use computers and books for research. Looking at gate count of the library, 12,479 people went through the doors in the fall semester 2014, and that climbed to 13,789 in the fall 2016.
The students originally asked to be put on the agenda for the board’s February meeting late last year and sent an email early last month to confirm.
The reply from a college administrative assistant said college officials “thought the issue was resolved.”
Students responded saying they would still like to speak and forwarded a three-pronged motion to the board. The motion recommended that (1) the library size would not be cut by more than 20 per cent, (2) that a student would sit on the library committee and (3) that a policy regarding space and written material be developed leading up to a larger plan to move the library to a new building.
In response they received a letter from chair Pond, who is from Prince Rupert and is also the BC Liberal candidate for the North Coast riding in the May 9 provincial election.
“After reading your motion I have come to the conclusion that this is an operating issue and therefore should be brought to the attention of the NWCC President, Mr. Ken Burt,” said Pond in his letter.
Speaking last week, college vice president Justin Kohlman said concerns about the library had already been heard, and were the reason administrators decided last November not to move it to the college’s longhouse.
Again in January, Kohlman says they heard students opposing the option of shrinking the library for the trades building renovation period, and they decided not to change the library.
“We did hear their concerns… and because of the great feedback from students and staff, we were able to come up with a solution that’s going to allow us to do the trades building upgrade but still operate all the courses we need to, and not move the library,” he said.
Kohlman says feedback from the consultation was heavily in favour of the option that didn’t affect the library, option A, which administrators decided to move forward with Feb. 15. Kohlman added that because of the input from students, NWCC also decided that it will do a full review of the Library — including usage and possible options for improvement.
The college is looking for a company to do the review this year, looking at use and talking to students. Recommendations from that review will lead to a long-term library plan.