Emma Lake campus closure will hurt employment, arts community

Alex
Alex Di Pietro
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With the University of Saskatchewan suspending activities at its Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus through to 2016, Emma Lake Reeve Al Christensen said the closure will affect both employment and the area’s arts community. 

“It will cause some decrease in employment. There were local people who did supply labour to that campus,” he said. “But I think the arts community is going to be the one that really loses something. It was an ideal location for painting and the outdoor scene. We’re disappointed from that point of view.”

It was announced Thursday that the U of S would be ceasing to offer experiential learning opportunities in courses such as biology, soil sciences, drama, art and art history and land use and environmental studies at the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus.

Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus was intended for the completion of fieldwork in different courses offered by the U of S, and thus includes residential facilities.

According to U of S provost and vice president academic Brett Fairbairn, all of the site’s buildings are in need of different repairs, which the university cannot afford to complete.

“Some of the cabins, the accommodations facilities, are fairly old, and they’re not up to modern standards,” he said. “But I would say our biggest concern is probably with the central building on the campus -- this is the dining hall, which is really the heart of the campus.”

Fairbairn said the building has some structural problems and that investments have been made in past years to slow the deterioration of the building.

“We have made due with that solution for a number of years already,” he said. “When we look at that building in particular, but also some of the others on the site, it really is the case that they would need to be replaced for the future, and that’s what we’re not in a position to do now.”

While he couldn’t comment on individual cases, Fairbairn said a process to deal with the employment issue is in place.

“We have a process that we work through with them, which includes a lot of support, outplacement counselling, that kind of thing, to assist them with the transition,” he said. “Although it’s unfortunate whenever layoffs occur, we do everything possible to support people and to do it the humane way.”

Christensen said he wasn’t terribly surprised by the university’s decision.

“The university has to make those decisions based on their financial capability, and while we hate to lose any economic benefit that would flow to the area, I know that certainly the university has been under pressure, financially, for some time,” he said.

The university’s departments concerned will be asked to make alternate plans, so the courses in question would be courses for the 2013 summer term.

“One of the reasons for us to announce the decision at this time of year is that December and January is when most of our departments are planning their curriculum for the coming year, so they’ll now need to be looking at different courses or alternate arrangements for summer 2013,” Fairbairn said.

As for future plans concerning the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus, Fairbairn said the university would be looking at viable ideas for the site.

“I think we’re open to any idea that will really work. What I’m interested in in particular is concepts for the site that are economically viable and that honour the natural setting and the artistic heritage of the location, and beyond that, I’m open-minded about what forms of solutions will work,” he said.

“The university has made several different attempts to find new structures and new approaches for the Emma Lake campus,” Fairbairn continued. “I think what we’re signalling here is that we will be making a renewed effort to find a solution that will work in the next three years.”

alex.dipietro@paherald.sk.ca

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  • bob
    November 20, 2012 - 12:30

    Too bad that the annual maintenance was never done by the university. Once it came under control of Corporate Admin, 10 years ago, the writing was on the wall, it was not valued or needed. Lack of maintenance and lack of capitol promised will allow the university to sell of the land for development. There soon will be a great push on the RM and the province to change the zoning of the area to allow it to move from educational to residential. The U of S has made the decision to get out of the arts and to not honor their own integrated plan. So much for a University of the people.