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By Richard Maerov

Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said he wants to embark on a “Christmas project” that hopes to fill at least a portion of almost 10,000 square feet of unused campus space.

The rooms and offices in the basement of the Podium building have been locked and vacant for the past nine months, despite Levy’s consistent lobbying for better student and faculty space. In February, the completion of the Student Campus Centre on Gould Street removed the podium’s underground residents, including RyeSAC, CKLN radio, Copyrite, the used book room and CESAR.

Since then, the vacated space has only been storing furniture. This month the old Copyrite and Member Services Office will be temporarily used for the distribution of the new Ryerson One cards to students. Levy said he wants to make a visible improvement over the holiday break although the project will be challenging. “The challenge is how to balance the need for space,” he said.

“We have to provide adequate space for the expansion of faculty of arts, more study space for students and offices for faculty.”

Levy said his Christmas project would affect either the Podium basement or the student computer lab in Kerr Hall West. “It’s very hard to get (this) done and it’s expensive to do,” Levy said. “But I hope to have an improvement in the quality of study space when students return in January.” The biggest priority of Levy’s widely publicized “Master Plan” is the expansion of Ryerson’s library. Ian Hamilton, Director of Campus Planning and Facilities, says it is impossible to assign any available campus space to anyone before it has been established whether or not the library will need it. “We need to understand the future growth needs of the library,” said Hamilton.

“We don’t want to constrain that exercise by suggesting a backup plan for unused rooms. That would be sending the wrong message.”

The Ryerson library has been working on a “long range plan” since the beginning of the fall, which is an inventory of existing space being used and comparisons with other university libraries. Bob Jackson, Associate Chief Librarian, presumes that the resulting report will be taken into consideration when the university draws up the overall Master Plan.

Jackson said the purpose of the report is not to earmark space for the library. “(The report) will not be saying that we want to take over a specific location in a particular building,” said Jackson. He said that the only thing he could envision using the space for would be for storage and archives in order to free up space in the library.

John Fauquier, a facility analyst with Campus Planning and Facilities, says it may look bad to have empty rooms on campus, but people don’t realise what goes in to committing someone to a location. “People think it is simply a matter of cutting a key. They don’t realise the monetary consequences of moving someone in,” said Fauquier.

He said that after installing a phone and computer connection, painting, carpeting, paying for labourers and safety inspections, filling an office can turn into a several thousand dollar investment of public money.

The two vice-presidents of the Board of Governors will ultimately decide what happens to the empty Podium rooms. Ryerson Student Union President Rebecca Rose said the issue was not mentioned at the board’s last meeting.

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