The future of Douglas College?

Photo by Joel McCarthy
Photo by Joel McCarthy

Student residence, on-site medical staff, and immigration advisory being considered

By Jamal Al-Bayaa, Staff Writer

On March 14, DSU representatives and planners representing the college met to discuss what the future of Douglas is going to look like.

The “Douglas College Master Plan” is a construction of the long-term vision and goals that Douglas will adopt over the next 25 years. It looks into the future of the college and attempts to respond to the challenges that it is able to predict. Creating a master plan is critical. Without a master plan, for example, planners won’t know what kind of guidelines to follow while building additional locations or expansions on campus.

Challenges and opportunities that were discussed at the meeting largely revolved around an increased population attending Douglas College in the foreseeable future.

Douglas is expecting an extra 5,000 students to attend full time—a growth of 40–50 per cent. This number doesn’t include part-time students, but it does include international students, who will make up as much as 30 per cent of the student population by 2040.

International students could be expecting services such as immigration advisory and on-site medical services, which would support students who experience barriers to getting professional medical help. It would be closely modeled after the existing mobile hygienist services that are already in place at Douglas, which are immensely popular.

Coquitlam Campus was the other major point of conversation, due to a number of factors.

First, the incoming traffic from the Evergreen Line Skytrain Station is expected to bring a large number of new students in from different areas. Whether or not Coquitlam is prepared to handle this is the question. While David Lam has classroom space, student engagement on the campus is poor.

David Lam lacks a social core, such as a concourse, and doesn’t have a separate building for the DSU and its services. The benefits of having a separate building would include increased autonomy, freedom from the Chartwells’ contract, and a large amount of space for the college to use for clubs, meetings, and services. Beginning in the summer semester, board meetings will be regularly held at David Lam, and an increased number of services will be offered there to support student engagement.

Another point of concern for David Lam campus is the large number of secondary school students that utilize the cafeteria. Pinetree Secondary, the high school near David Lam, has no cafeteria of its own, and Douglas, Pinetree Secondary, and Chartwells are in a three-way partnership that permits Pinetree students to use the cafeteria at Douglas. Getting out of such a deal would be complicated, and probably won’t be feasible until contracts are renegotiated.

The potential of student residences, in order to provide accommodation for that influx of international students and provide a living space for students who would like to attend the college but live far away, are also being discussed.

The Master Plan is still only in its draft stage. The final step in the Resource Planning Group’s process is to look over the data one more time, and try to gain an understanding of what students feel as best as they can. In the meantime, the DSU is encouraging students to approach them with their suggestions on how to improve the Master Plan.