A tale of two field trips

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By Josh Visser & Grant McDonald

Architecture students first described to The Eyeopener a field trip to New York City last week that proved to be “disappointing” and “disorganized.”

But only hours after the professor who organized the trip, Ian MacBurnie, was asked to comment for this article, a dozen or so architecture students took to The Eyeopener office with a new tune.

The students now described the trip as “a wonderful opportunity that we were given and lucky to have” and “were privileged to have gone.”

Students said they discussed issues with MacBurnie and were now satisfied with their trip.

They had just come from a lecture with MacBurnie where he told them that a negative article published about the trip could affect the department’s bid for a Master’s program.

The Post-Secondary Educational Quality Assessment Board is due to visit Ryerson on Thursday to look at the various departments that are applying for a Master’s program, including Architecture.

The school has been working on having an accredited Master’s for the last three years.

The students were adamant that any article being published would portray the department negatively and demanded that this article be withheld.

“I felt the discussion was a great catharsis to get everything out there that we hoped,” said Sean Robbins after the meeting.

“The profs just had a different idea of what the trip was,” said Jordan Matchett. “We appreciate the effort in organizing the trip. But it could have been much better.”

But when asked for specifics on what had changed over the previous two hours to make their trip better, there was no consensus.

One student suggested that they were “lucky to have four university professors take them around New York City on their (the professors’) weekend.”

Another said he didn’t want to be “seen as a whiny student.”

And yet another said they realized students had different expectations than professors in regards to the trip.

Most students were concerned over the accreditation of a Master’s program and weren’t aware of this week’s looming inspection.

The third-year students originally came to The Eyeopener angry about their $500 field trip to various New York City architecture sites. The students said one of the main reasons for all the confusion was because the itinerary was altered half-way through the trip. As a result, one student was left looking for his group, missing out on the opportunities to see museums.

Students also described how they were denied access to various buildings or areas of buildings, despite the buildings being on their itinerary.

“I felt embarrassed showing up with 80 students unannounced to Cooper Union (a prestigious school of architecture) when we were under the impression that we’d be touring the school. It was very disappointing,” Kat Douthart said at noon on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t find (the field trip) enjoyable after it became clear our itinerary went to crap,” Robbins said earlier.

Things took a turn for the worse when they came home from the trip.

In an email obtained by The Eyeopener, MacBurnie asked the 80 students on the trip to bring “a $20.00 dollar contribution, in cash” to class.

Students said the money was being used as a “travel agent fee.” According to the students, MacBurnie also told them the money was to cover the cost of the professors who went on the trip.

MacBurnie wouldn’t confirm or deny the request to collect more money. He said “no comment” to each of the complaints.

“I’m not aware of any (complaints), so we are not having this interview,” MacBurnie said after being asked why the expensive trip was allegedly poorly planned.

Students paid $187 CAD for the bus ride, $135 for the hotel, plus the cost of food, subway and any museums that they successfully attended in American currency.

Nate Fisher said he went to New York with high expectations and that students were told by professors the trip was pretty much mandatory.

“This trip cost me almost $500,” said Fisher. “I can’t even pay off my tuition.”

After having an internal discussion with architecture students, Douthart no longer thought the experience was a negative one.

“There was good and there was bad but in the end we learned what we were supposed to,” Douthart said.

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