Researchers fed up with ‘dirty’ labs

U of M building in desperate state


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CEILING tiles hang down or are gone altogether, wires and pipes are exposed, floors and walls and doors are scuffed and dinged and in need of paint in the Parker chemistry building at the University of Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/07/2012 (3979 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CEILING tiles hang down or are gone altogether, wires and pipes are exposed, floors and walls and doors are scuffed and dinged and in need of paint in the Parker chemistry building at the University of Manitoba.

“How do you attract people to come to a place like this, faculty and students?” asked Prof. Sharon Alward, president of the U of M Faculty Association.

Almost from the moment she became union head last spring, Alward heard from scientists whose noses were severely out of joint over the state of their buildings, none worse than the Parker building.

Cole Breiland / Winnipeg Free Press Sharon Alward in the Parker building.

“Is this the place where you want to do your research?” Alward said during a walkabout this week. “You want to come into a place (where) you work and feel inspired.”

Alward teaches in arts, so she hadn’t seen much of the science buildings until she became UMFA president and the science profs urged her to visit.

“There are no ceilings,” she said. “You can hear right next door.

“The big problem is, these are researchers. When things are disrupted, they can’t get their research done,” she said. “There’s a high emphasis on the ability to generate grants.”

Alward said science professors feel they’ve been left behind in the university’s approval and financing of massive projects to refurbish the campus.

It’s fine for engineering and music to have sparkling new buildings, but science wants its share, she said.

“A lot of faculty feel a little disenfranchised, that they’re not getting attention — there’s no will to focus on science. From what I hear from members, it’s science that are feeling neglected,” Alward said.

“It’s just dirty and drab. If you say you’re an employer of choice, you’re throwing the gauntlet down. This falls right at the doorstep of the president and the administration,” said the union president.

The U of M, not surprisingly, begs to differ.

“There’s a lot of money (that’s) been put into the science complex. There’s certainly been a lot of money put into science in the budget in the last two years,” said John Danakas, director of marketing and communications. “They can’t all be upgraded or renovated at the same time.

“Deferred maintenance and renewal are ongoing issues, no doubt about it,” Danakas said.

The U of M says it has spent more than $48 million on science buildings since 2008.

“Dozens of labs have been refurbished in the Buller building” — $30 million worth over the last 10 years, he said.

The U of M spent almost $15 million to move biology into the former pharmacy building, Danakas pointed out.

“The Parker building certainly has a number of needs,” he said. There’s a list of $40 million worth of labs awaiting funding in Parker, at $1.5 million each. The U of M has done one Parker lab each of the past three years.

“The Buller building, we’ve taken a lot of politicians through there. There’s a lot of work (that’s) been done on the Buller building. The (former) pharmacy building was redone for biology,” Danakas said.

Work is continuing on the Duff Roblin building, heavily damaged in a 2009 fire.

“A lot of offices have been moved back into the Duff Roblin,” Danakas said.

Buildings in need of TLC

HERE’S what one science professor told the University of Manitoba Faculty Association president Prof. Sharon Alward this week: “I think you can legitimately say there is a question as to whether or not many of the U of M researchers are in a place conducive to research as a result of poorly planned and executed renovations to laboratory and building spaces (despite the fact new construction seems to go up very quickly). The state of buildings at the U of M impairs our productivity and does not support the university’s claims, time and time again, that we are a research-intensive institution.”

The University of Manitoba says it has spent more than $48.7 million upgrading, retrofitting and renovating its science buildings since 2008, including money under the federal-provincial infrastructure renewal program.

The infrastructure spending includes $14.4 million to transform the former pharmacy building for biological sciences, and $5.3 million on the Buller building.

A retrofit of the Buller building started in 2006 cost an additional $11 million.

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