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Presidents of the past and present: how campus plans have changed over the years

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By Annie Arnone

Ryerson’s student population is on the rise. In a campus that holds over 36,000 students, campus is becoming denser and growing pains are more prevalent. But president Mohamed Lachemi has a plan to expand, despite former president Sheldon Levy’s reservations against having a satellite campus. 

In 2016, The Eyeopener reported on Ryerson’s 10-minute plan, involving the potential of a satellite campus for Ryerson—a branch of campus located in another part of the city, country or around the world. Almost two years later, Lachemi believes that while we are not entirely at the point of expanding in a fashion similar to the University of Toronto—which has campuses in Toronto, Mississauga and Scarborough—it could be Ryerson’s future.

“We have limitations in terms of land,” Lachemi said. “What we are trying to do is see the opportunities that will reinforce our role as a university…we can be innovative elsewhere.”

Other Canadian schools such as Humber College and York University have resorted to multiple campuses to fulfill their growing population demand.

In March 2017, Ryerson announced their formal proposal to the Ontario government to expand their campus to Brampton.

Today, Lachemi says the school is one step closer to making the move to Brampton. He added that the school has been in frequent conversation with the government regarding the potential for a site-plan, and they are simply waiting for the announcement to be made.

The move, according to Lachemi, would serve as an opportunity for Ryerson to build another innovation hub in an “up and coming” part of Ontario.

“What we are trying to do is see the opportunities that will reinforce our role as a university, we can increase our presence in downtown Toronto, but also can keep our innovative way of doing things elsewhere. We had a lot of discussion and we saw this as an opportunity—Brampton is becoming a large city.”

Levy, who served as president prior to Lachemi, told the Eyeopener that “the university…has never [seen] itself building a satellite campus, we’ve seen our identity as a downtown university. And the challenge of building downtown—it is now really serious.”

Levy’s presence was strongly heard during the origins of the Student Learning Centre (SLC), Ryerson’s largest study space, that he helped orchestrate, and has become a monumental attraction for students at the end of Gould St. He referenced moving “up”, rather than “outward” as a compromise for expansion on campus, but with the exception of the SLC, it was a difficult task.

“If someone just dropped $70 million that landed on this desk, a new building would be ready in about seven to 10 years,” Levy told the Eye. “That’s how hard it is to build. I feel really guilty about that, and we should have done a better job.”

While Lachemi agrees, working on projects such as the Public Realm Plan, he says moving outward is truly the best option for the school, leaving students, faculty and staff wondering what our campus will look like in the next ten years—and where else it would be located.

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