By Greg Baker
Ryerson’s architecture department has voted to drop the less popular landscape architecture stream because of low enrolment and the need for curriculum changed to keep up with the profession.
The department plans to stop offering the landscape option to first-year students as early as September, but will allow students already enrolled at Ryerson to choose the option in their third year before it is phased out.
The cancellation still needs to be approved by academic council, which met on Tuesday. Results from the meeting were not available at press time.
Only 12 students — seven in third year and five in fourth year — are currently studying the landscape architecture specialization. The department felt too much money was being spent maintaining a program with only a dozen students.
Although the cancellation won’t affect those already enrolled in the architecture program, reaction from students was mixed.
Fourth-year landscape architecture student Rob Lau said he isn’t surprised because in the past four years, enrolment in his stream has dropped dramatically.
“I think it was a bit disappointing at first but not all that shocking,” he said. “I don’t think landscape was really given a fair run at it.”
But classmate Sandra Spudic was caught off guard.
“I was surprised,” she said. “I knew the numbers were low but I thought that they’d try to improve their methods of advertising the program and getting more information about the program out.”
Michael Miller, chair of Ryerson’s architectural science and landscape architecture department, said he didn’t think cancelling the stream was an issue.
“I don’t think there’s much to talk about,” he said. “The proposal is going to academic council and it will be decided [Tuesday].”
The proposal comes about three months after-year landscape architecture students went five weeks without professors for two of their required classes.
Lau petitioned the faculty for a refund. According to his calculations, the university owed he and his classmates $281 for missed class time.
Lau was later informed that his appeal for the money had been rejected. He was told that tuition refunds are not based on hours missed but on whether or not the amount of knowledge students were supposed to gain was received.
Once the landscape specialty is removed from the program, students will have only three options to choose from — building science, project management or architecture.
A certificate program in landscape architecture will still be offered at Ryerson through the continuing education division.
Nicole Lehoczky, a fourth-year landscape architecture student, said the stream wasn’t stressed enough in the first two years of the program.
“I’m disappointed,” she said. “In retrospect I probably would have went to Guelph where it’s pure landscape and not the two architecture years.”
According to the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre, only 31 high school students out of the almost 60,000 who attend universities each year choose a landscape architecture program as their first choice.
But Cecelia Paine, an associate professor at the University of Guelph and president of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, said there is no indication of a decline in those numbers.
“In fact,” Paine said, “there is presently a huge demand for landscape architects, and at the University of Guelph we’ve experienced a steady rate of demand and an increase in enrolment.”
Paine predicts the impact of not having future Ryerson graduates in the profession will be significant.
“Ryerson has traditionally had a very important role in bringing applied knowledge and the use of new techniques in the field,” Paine said. “With its closure, Ryerson won’t be contributing that kind of knowledge and perspective and that will affect the diversity of the profession.”