‘New’ Old Main project gets $7.4 million from province

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

The provincial government has committed $7.4 million to complete renovations on Old Main for the law school, but the status of funding for the school’s day-to-day costs is unclear.

Around 150 people, which included law students, provincial and student politicians, construction workers and university administrators, gathered in the construction site Oct. 9 for the announcement.

“This is part of our skills training plan to ensure that we have the educated workforce that will drive our economy into the future,” John Yap, B.C.’s advanced education minister, told the audience. “I’m delighted to come here on behalf of Premier Christy Clark to announce this funding to complete the renovation and completion of this building.”

The university estimates the total cost of the renovation project will be $20 million.

The first phase of the project, the shell on top of Old Main, will cost $10 million. The announced funding will go to the second phase, which focused on the building’s interior. TRU expects to raise the final $2.6 million needed through fundraising.

The project will turn Old Main from a bit of an ugly duckling to a piece of art modeled after the two mountains that tower over the city, said Alan Shaver, TRU’s president.

“Today, with the announcement from the minister, TRU and the province has formed a partnership to make this dream come true,” he said. “It’s going to, in the process, transform the Old Main building into the new Old Main building and generate a state of the art educational facility.”

The president of TRU’s Society of Law Students, Robert Fischer, expressed gratitude for the funding.

“It’ll go a long way to complete the inside of this building,” said Fischer. “I know it’s been a challenging year in terms of study space, lockers and general things for students, so it’s much appreciated.”

Law students currently study at the Brown Family House of Learning, which can make it hard to study because the building was designed to be a common area for the general student population.

The law school’s dean also told the audience he and the rest of the law faculty were excited to have their own space under construction.

“We are really pleased to be in this building, we are really pleased to be teaching and studying law here in Thompson Rivers University,” Chris Axworthy said. “We have every expectation of providing really, really top-notch law student graduates that’ll go on to article, go on to practice law, wherever their aspirations, wherever their dreams take them.”

This funding announcement is positive for students, the university and the community, said Michelle Mungall, the B.C. NDP’s advanced education critic.

“This is a good news announcement and I’m glad that the Liberals have decided to invest in TRU,” she said, adding the problem is the government has kept funding stagnant for day-to-day expenses since 2005, with a planed $50 million reduction over the next two budgets.

“It will be great to see the facilities there, but we also have to make sure there’s funding there for operations so we can actually make sure that there’s students in those buildings.”

Neither political party got specific as to provincial day-to-day funding TRU law students aren’t receiving. The two older law schools at the University of Victoria (UVic) and University of B.C. (UBC) receive funding while TRU does not.

“Each and every year, we provide TRU with operating grants up to $65 million,” Yap told The Omega. “It is in the purview of the university to fund the programs from all the sources available to the university. We are supporting, through generous grants, Thompson Rivers University.”

As for the B.C. NDP, Mungall said they would be unable to make any specific commitments until they were in government and able to examine the issue in greater detail.

TRU’s law school has the highest tuition in the province at $17,136 per year, while Uvic’s costs $8,678.08 and UBC’s costs $11,003.52 for the first year and $10,315.80 for the last two.