24/7 ‘Access’

Kiri Piotrowski

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

How we got 24-hour access to open spaces and ended up with less access to shops, studios, and tools.


Over the past few years, students have organized for increased access to the spaces, shops and studios of OCAD. Recently, we won 24-hour access to open spaces and unmonitored shops and studios in 100, 60, and 52 McCaul. At the same time, however, we’ve seen access to monitored spaces diminish.

Our organizing was never just about 24-hour access. It was about improving facility access—access to the spaces and tools needed to produce work—in order to strengthen community. Students in different programs have different needs: drawing and painting students need to be able to work on and store large works, while students focused on critical writing need to be able find an available desk in the library. Sculpture and Installation students need access to shops. Every program has different facility needs, and it’s only when these are met that community has space to grow.

The following is a timeline of student organizing for increased access, from 2014 to the present, written from the perspective of a student involved.

November 24, 2014 → Occupy OCAD
It began in the studio. Drawings & Painting students felt time limits the creative process. Increased enrolment meant crowded studios during the day.

Draft of the Declaration of Students 2014, a manifesto of Occupy OCAD.

The demands were simple: increase access to monitored shops and provide 24-hour access to studio space. Word traveled quickly in the studio. Students were set to hold a peaceful sit-in the following evening, at the opening reception for the 10th anniversary of the Sharp Centre.

November 25, 2014 → 10th Anniversary of the Sharp Centre
It was the day of the opening reception for the 10th Anniversary of the Sharp Centre. Will Alsop, architect of the Sharp Centre, was set to speak that night. Word of the protest had spread across campus and into administration. Before the protest had started, the students’ demands were met. Hours before the protest was set to take place, we were told, effective immediately, that we would have 24-hour access to 100 McCaul.

November 26, 2014
The University sent an email announcing 24-hour access to 100 McCaul, including the Sharp Centre, effective immediately until Friday, December 12.

December 8, 2014
We felt the University was focused on planning for years from now, and not for tomorrow. We wanted access to facilities to complete our course work, so we launched the 115 McCaul Let’s Prioritize survey.

January 7, 2015
We received 530 responses and 219 additional comments to the 115 McCaul Let’s Prioritize survey. 100% of students believed that OCAD needed to prioritize space improvement. 91% of students stated their dissatisfaction with the studio space. Students wanted an immediate solution to the space crisis.

By this time we had formed a group of students consisting of representatives from each discipline across Art, Design & Liberal Studies faculties. We all wanted the same thing: sufficient space. Working together across disciplines increased our understanding of the types of access each program requires. We had the support of our peers and were on a mission to advocate for improved access to facilities.

February 23, 2015 → Senate
(Half of OCAD’s governing bodies - makes all academic decisions)

The morning of our presentation we were informed that students would have 24-hour access to 100 McCaul for the last 6 weeks of the semester. Still, we did not let this decision change our strategy. We wanted the support of the Senate. We had formed a cross-disciplinary group of representatives, each with their own strengths to contribute to the group. We came prepared ready to present to the Senate.

Our argument remained simple: the lack of studio access was a barrier to our academic success. We presented a two-phase solution: Phase 1: 24-hour access for 100 McCaul, including all unmonitored studios Phase 2: Extended Shop & Studio Hours and Library Hours. Senate agreed unanimously and endorsed our presentation.

We were pleased with the support we garnered from the Senate, but wanted to continue to gather University-wide support. After the Senate hearing concluded, we headed across the street to the Student Union offices. We ordered pizza and debriefed our next steps, not wanting to lose momentum. We followed up with the administration immediately and secured time on the next Board of Governors meeting agenda.

March 9, 2015 → Board of Governors
(The other half of OCAD’s governing bod- ies—makes all financial decisions)

We were unified: Students at Large, Student Senators, Student Board of Governor representatives and the Student Union, across disciplines. We wanted action that would improve the student experience. We wanted increased access to help facilitate community building.

Motion: it was resolved that the OCAD University Board of Governors acknowledges that student involvement in the running of the University is a foundational element in fostering a culture of satisfied student experience; the Board of Governors further resolves to instruct University management to strike a Working Group (including students, administration, staff, and a Board of Governors representative) for the purpose of implementing immediate and strategic steps that prioritize student access to spaces at OCAD University with the Working Group reporting back to the Board of Governors with their findings in advance of the June 2015 Board meeting

Motion carried, unanimously

The Student Experience Working Group (SEWG) was formed. After the meeting we went to Queen Mum Café. We ate cake and celebrated. We felt like our voices were being heard.

Spring-Summer 2015
But we started to lose momentum. It was the end of the semester: we became busy with our work as students. The University had given us one of the main things we wanted: 24-hour access. Half of us graduated, some went away for the summer.

We worked with the administration to develop terms of reference for the SEWG. We didn’t realize at the time that this was largely—and possibly intentionally— slowing us down. Engaging in that process meant that we stopped fighting for change, and were too distracted to keep pushing for extended hours in the library and in monitored studios. We lost sight of the fact that we weren’t bound to engage on the terms of the administration.

October 28, 2015
The OCAD Student Union hosted Fall Roundtable Discussions. Students discussed the idea of another protest, should the University continue to not provide more facility access.

November 2, 2015
Students received an email stating extended 24-hour access to 100 McCaul, 52 McCaul & 60 McCaul would begin the following week and end after a 5-week period.

November 11, 2015
But then we received an email from a printmaking student that signaled that something wasn’t right. Extended hours in their shop were reduced from the previous year. We looked into this, and learned that it was because of changes to something called the Institutional Work Study Plan (IWSP).

IWSP gives students jobs within the institution to help them cover their educational costs. This includes departmental support, including student monitor positions. In 2015–16, there was greater demand for hours from various departments (diluting the number of hours available to each department), stronger enforcement of guidelines determining who could participate (those students who now qualified didn’t necessarily have the skills needed for certain monitoring jobs), and the IWSP minimum wage increased to $13.38 per hour from $12.32. An increase in the minimum wage without a relative increase in dedicated funding caused a shortfall in the number of working hours available through IWSP for the year, and on top of that, fewer hours were being put toward monitors (and thus access) than before.

We brought this information to the administration. Fewer IWSP hours with an increase in departmental demand led to fewer students hired to work as monitors, and as a result students now face less access to monitored spaces.

November 17, 2015
Student Experience Working Group (SEWG): The SEWG had its first meeting. We talked about facility access as the base of community building— almost like a shell. We discussed ideas and potential projects for how to activate the space, assuming facility access would continue.

December 2, 2015
At the OCAD University holiday party we received word that the winter semester would be a full semester trial of 24-hour access.

December 7, 2015
We presented to the Board of Governors. It was discussed that changes to IWSP minimum wage and an increase in departmental demand of hours caused a decrease in available monitor hours.

December 22, 2015
The University informed all students that 24/7 building access for 100, 60, and 52 McCaul would begin January 11, 2016 for the duration of the Winter Semester.

January 11, 2016
We found out that the University is tracking 24/7 access usage for the winter semester.

April 6, 2016
Communication of 24/7 access for the duration of the Winter Semester has yet to be posted on the OCAD U website under building hours and contact page.

We now have 24/7 access to open spaces and unmonitored studios. But it’s a trial, and there is no certainty that it will stay. On top of that, because the University is tracking use, the administration will have evidence that overnight access isn’t needed if the numbers from this semester are low.

Our efforts to strengthen community by increasing facility access (in specific areas: the library, for those who write and read; shops and studios, for those who make...) have been twisted into an oversimplified demand for space to work at night.

We have been effective, but we need to continue to put pressure on the University to make sure that progress continues and the needs of all students are met. We as students have a powerful voice: if we work together, we can make change.

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