By: Gabbi van Looyen
Carleton neuroscience students continue to express concerns about the department’s possible eviction from the Life Sciences building.
With the March 1 eviction fast approaching, student stakeholders were invited to talks with the school on Dec. 16 to express their concerns. Greg Owens, a fifth-year neuroscience student who sits on the Board of Governors, said this was the first time they have been consulted.
“I think it’s a real concern for a lot of students, it’s not just whether or not they can actually complete something or get the credit or get the degree, it comes down to what our research actually will produce and whether or not what that says about our ability as researchers,” he said.
A crowdfunding campaign was started called “Save CarletonU Neuroscience” that aimed to raise money to hire legal counsel to stop the eviction. The campaign was however cancelled on Dec. 20 as it did not raise enough funds, according to the latest update on GoFundMe.
Owens said some faculty members and graduate students have begun looking for new opportunities at other universities as a result of the move. He said he is worried the impacts of the relocation will have lasting impacts on the program’s reputation.
“We already have an uphill battle with funding agencies and with other universities for our reputation at Carleton as a whole, and so adding these concerns, we can see the long-term effect,” he said.
Owens said the logistics of a move of this size is on the mind of many neuroscience students.
“We’re not quite sure what equipment will be going where. Many of the labs don’t know where they’ll have lab space,” he said. “We know that we’ll have space for the animals but you know, having the animals in a storage room, albeit very helpful, doesn’t really help us produce research if we don’t have anywhere to actually do our research.”
He said other hurdles include getting permits to legally move controlled substances from their labs to a new facility and getting ahold of trained personnel to transport some of the equipment.
The department is currently working with two project managers hired by the university to facilitate the move. The eventual move to the new Health Sciences building is being managed by ZW Project Management Inc., the same company that is managing the construction of the new building, the university said in an email statement on Jan. 11.
“There are lots of [logistical] concerns, but we are working with the project managers to work with the administration to understand how we can best minimize the impact but right now, it does seem pretty disastrous for students,” Owens said.
The department of neuroscience has expressed similar concerns in an update on their website, saying the move “will have a negative impact on the department of neuroscience that will be felt for several years” due to delays to student and faculty research.
The Charlatan reached out to John Stead, chair of the neuroscience department, but he declined to comment further on the situation.
The move comes on the heels of a $13.5 million grant from the federal government for renovations on the existing Life Sciences Building where the neuroscience department has its laboratories. In December, it was decided that temporary lab space would be provided at the University of Ottawa until their new space is completed in Fall 2017.
Renovations on the building, however, will not be completed until December 2017.
According to the university, it is having regular conversations with researchers to identify their specific requirements, and that some researchers are making their own arrangements “to accommodate their specific research needs.” The university will also assist these researchers in any way it can, the statement said.
An inventory is being done of equipment needed and arrangements are being made “to package and store sensitive equipment and move it, if required,” the university said.
Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) president Fahd Alhattab said if any students have asked for accommodation and have been denied after speaking to their direct research supervisor, they should reach out to CUSA.
“We will ensure [that] we speak to the provost of the university and the project manager directly to make sure their detail for their research project can be met,” Alhattab said.
Owens said the situation has left students like himself with few options.
“We can dedicate a lot of time to the fight but we have studies to finish,” he said. “The damage is already done and we’ve started on a path that unfortunately is going to have major consequences on the students who really wanted to be here and really wanted to excel within this program.”