They came bearing gifts

Premier Bernard Landry visited Concordia University for the first time Monday. By the time he left, students had 97 million reasons to thank him for stopping by. In a long awaited announcement delivered to a full-house crowd at the J.A. de Seve Theatre, Quebec Education Minister Sylvain Simard, flanked by Landry, Rector Frederick Lowy, Chancellor Eric Molson and Concordia Council President Lilianne Vineberg, announced the provincial government will provide $97 million for a new engineering, computer science and visual arts complex on the corner of Ste.

Premier Bernard Landry visited Concordia University for the first time Monday. By the time he left, students had 97 million reasons to thank him for stopping by.
In a long awaited announcement delivered to a full-house crowd at the J.A. de Seve Theatre, Quebec Education Minister Sylvain Simard, flanked by Landry, Rector Frederick Lowy, Chancellor Eric Molson and Concordia Council President Lilianne Vineberg, announced the provincial government will provide $97 million for a new engineering, computer science and visual arts complex on the corner of Ste.Catherine and Guy Streets.
The two new buildings, which will be located along Ste. Catherine St. between Guy and MacKay, are intended to provide much needed space for students in both the fine arts and the engineering and computer science faculties. Not only will the space provide room for at least 500 additional students and 60 professorial positions, but will also lower the number of buildings currently in use by Concordia students from 70 to 10. This will have a help to lower the amount of money the university spends on rent, which currently stands at $4.7 million per year.
The complete project, predicted to be finished in 2005, will cost $165 million, with the other $68 million being made up by the university. According to Lowy, the university has not yet decided on the final method of payment, but said it will most likely be split between money already present in the Concordia Foundation and bank loans.
During the press conference, Simard, Lowy and Landry all emphasized the inherent link between the creativity needed to be successful in visual arts as well as in the high tech industry. According to Landry, it is no coincidence that studies have found that areas with a high proportion of artists also have a thriving high tech sector.
Rector Lowy beamed with pride as the minister made the announcement. For Lowy, this is a much needed step in the right direction, one Concordia has been chasing for a while. “Students will finally be able to take advantage of modern installations, which will allow us to attract and keep the best student minds.” Lowy also emphasized the fact that modern facilities will allow the school to attract renowned professors and researchers as well.
For Nabil Esmail, dean of engineering and computer science, the new buildings will provide much needed space for a faculty whose numbers are growing at an incredible pace. “We have doubled our enrolment since 1997, from 3,000 to 6,016 students, yet we are still in the same quarters.” This new establishment, he said, would provide enough space, regroup a currently far-flung faculty and allow the faculty to reach its goal of 160 professors.
Student leaders are equally pleased. After the press conference, Engineering and Computer Science Association President Mike Nimchuk said, “This is the kick in the ass into the 21st Century that Concordia has needed” for a long time now. For Fine Arts Student Alliance President Declan O’Driscoll, the government’s donation is a “blessing to graphics and visual arts students at Concordia.” At the same time, though, he implored the government to remember that the fine arts faculty is made up of both visual arts and performing arts students, the latter of which are also in need of new facilities.
CSU interim President Patrice Blais applauded the announcement, calling it a “great first step in much needed improvements,” but added that schools are simply concrete and steel. “It’s great to invest in buildings, but there are other issues too. Many of our existing buildings need upgrades and tuition is always an issue.”
According to Simard tuitions and buildings are two separate issues, and students should in no way feel that investment in the university will lead to tuition hikes. “The debate over investment [in buildings] and raising tuition fees is a false one,” he said at the reception after the announcement. “The Parti Quebecois is still committed on keeping tuition low and education accessible for all students.”
According to Esmail ground-breaking ceremonies for the new buildings are tentatively scheduled for May 17.

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