New sign project should take back seat to maintenance

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“You call that thing a sign?” Photo: Taylor MacPherson

“You call that thing a sign?” Photo: Taylor MacPherso

New construction project criticized for not helping students, faculty.

The University of Regina’s new sign project at the north gate of campus has drawn opposition from those who believe that maintenance should take priority over new construction projects. The plan, already well underway, involves the installation of a new sign proclaiming “University of Regina” in stainless-steel letters mounted on Manitoba Tyndall stone, complimenting the larger sign already in place at the south gate. At night, the fixture will be illuminated by a battery of solar-powered LEDs. The project will also incorporate significant landscaping improvements, concrete work to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, and new lighting intended to make the area safer at night. The total costs of all these improvements? A whopping $400,000.

While that price tag is easy to swallow compared to last year’s sign project at the South Gate ($950,000), it has some questioning the wisdom of spending such sums on curb appeal.

“There is a lot of aging teaching infrastructure on campus,” Professor Chris Yost told the Carillon, “and combining that with the continued escalation of deferring maintenance costs to spend capital on new construction we have a situation where roof leaks are impacting teaching and learning.”

In addition to the water-collection pails still dotting campus hallways as students and faculty prepare for the start of classes, Yost cites broken seats in lecture halls, and aging technology resources as examples of the University failing to maintain existing infrastructure.

It is worth noting that one piece of University infrastructure which is still in perfect shape, is the existing sign at the north gate intersection. It is an understated stone affair, low and sturdy, nestled in the centre of one of the nicest flowerbeds on campus. It is a genuinely nice place to walk; a fact which might have something to do with the fact that nobody is currently shining LEDs all over the place.

The improvements to the north gate were planned to coincide with the installation of the new traffic lights at the intersection by the City of Regina. While the new lights are already making left turns onto Wascana Parkway significantly less hair-raising, the University found themselves contributing $100,000 to that project as well, bringing their total costs up to a half-million dollars.

While the north gate’s makeover is designed to be a source of pride for the University of Regina (it says so on their website), Yost argues that “the best universities have based their reputations on their teaching and research impacts,” and that the University of Regina’s limited resources would be better spent “investing in capital projects that will directly add to the quality of the student’s experience in the classrooms, studios, and labs.”

Despite criticism, the University is planning additional infrastructure projects and updates over the coming year, with the stated goal of “assist[ing] visitors in finding their way around campus and enhanc[ing] safety by improving navigation for first responders.” Whether visitors and first-responders will have to navigate around buckets collecting rainwater in the halls, remains unclear.

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