STU chapel moves due to campus space crunch

St. Thomas University will relocate the chapel that many members of the school’s faith community consider a second home. The George Martin Hall chapel will move to Holy Cross House so the current space can be transformed into a common area.

(Sean McCullum/AQ)
(Sean McCullum/AQ)

The move is being made to create more communal space for next year, when a new meal plan system will see students without meal cards unable to access the GMH cafeteria.

STU spokesman Jeffrey Carleton said the decision wasn’t made lightly.

“It is difficult for those who don’t agree with the decision,” said Carleton. “The president made it clear that the size of the chapel is much too large for the size of the faith community.”

The GMH chapel seats around 320 people, while the Holy Cross chapel will seat around 100.

“The size of a weekly mass may get as much as 70 people,” said Carleton.

In the spring of 2014, plans were made to implement a new campus meal plan. The new plan switched the current declining balance system to a meals-per-day system, which was postponed a year amid much resistance, particularly to the loss of community space.

“The president decided to step back (from the new meal plan) since the reaction was so strong,” said Carleton.

An advisory committee and senior administration at STU decided that the chapel should move to make way for a new common area.

“The space isn’t going to be a dining room. It’s a common space that we expect can be used for concerts, academic activities, meetings and social events,” said Carleton. “At its peak times almost 1,500 wireless devices are connected to our wireless on campus… Regardless of the new lounge in JDH and the new furniture, we still need more space on campus.”

Carleton said studies show that when students spend more time on campus they are more likely to succeed academically.

After a mass on Jan. 4, President Dawn Russell explained why the changes were being made. Fourth-year student Arianne Melara was in attendance.

“Many people were deeply saddened by the news,” said Melara. “There is a feeling of hopelessness in the community.”

Melara said she first came to the chapel on her third day in Fredericton. She moved here in 2011 and has been attending mass regularly since.

“A lot of people have a strong connection with the physical space. This has been my second home since I started school,” said Melara.

“I am sad about the decision. I wish there would have been more consultation with students.”

Meredith Gillis is a STU alumna who said the chapel was always there for her throughout her STU career. Gillis graduated in 2013 and opposes the change.

“It’s where I met most of my friends, had the most meaningful conversations, experienced the deepest joys and most trying sorrows of my university career,” said Gillis. “STU is a Catholic institution… It doesn’t make sense to me to rip out the heart and soul of the place.”

Jeffery Carleton said STU has received approximately 30 complaints via e-mail and a few over the phone. STU has also received e-mails and phone calls from supporters. Carleton said complaints mainly come from the faith community, students and alumni.

“We did commit to the faith community. We will sit down and show them what our final plans are,” said Carleton.

The common space and the new chapel are scheduled to be ready for September 2015. The STU food bank will remain open, but is subject to relocation.

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  • Show Comments (5)

  • Gisele Lundrigan

    Great. Its such a beautiful and peaceful space: lets cannibalize it so the school can make a profit out of the new meal plan system. greeeaaaat. Yeah, strongly in opposition.

  • Athena Cook

    The following article was printed in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner

    St. Thomas University should reconsider decision to move chapel
    ATHENA COOK COMMENTARY

    The chapel in George Martin Hall at St. Thomas University is being turned into a common area.

    Aramark is a U.S.-based multinational food, facilities and clothing services provider supplying businesses, educational institutions, sports facilities and healthcare institutions. It has operations in 22 countries around the world and in 2009 had revenues of US$12.3 billion.

    In the St. Thomas University food services agreement, Aramark dictates changes in cafeteria use. The cafeteria will soon be restricted to those on a campus meal plan. This means that students, faculty and staff who had previously been charged for individual food items are now charged a flat fee for an entire meal regardless of how much or little they purchase.

    Aramark prevents students, staff and faculty who don’t buy any food from entering the dining hall to study or meet during their hours of operation. As the dining hall had previously been used as study and/or meeting space by many students, faculty and staff changes to the accessibility of this space leaves those without meal plans without space to congregate and use Wi-Fi.

    Most off-campus students don’t have a meal plan. St. Thomas University is being forced to find alternate space for those who will no longer be allowed to access the cafeteria. In contrast, the University of New Brunswick negotiated the following in their food service agreement. University of New Brunswick – Food Services Agreement with Sodexo-article I, Section 1.3. Regulations and Access: All authorized representatives of UNB shall have full right of access to all areas of food services at any and all times. UNB reserves the right to use any food service areas from time to time for such purposes as registration of students, testing, dances, approved non-student activities, etc.

    The STU food services agreement is the major reason behind the chapel relocation – a case of the tail wagging the dog. Who negotiated this agreement and why did it not include the full access stipulation included in UNB’s agreement? If the stipulation had been included, maybe there would be no need for the chapel relocation.

    The decision to make the changes occurred over a period of months, but there was no consultation with stakeholders. The recommendation for the move was put forward by the finance committee. Relocation to Holy Cross will require renovations to both spaces (extensive renovations to the STU Chapel to make it a common, non-denominational space, including removal of stained glass windows) and will occur over the spring and summer.

    Was the cost of these renovations included in the overall food service contract cost? Would the company have been the low bidder if all these additional renovation/relocation costs had been included in the contract?

    Holy Cross students are worried about the stigma of being a residence housing a chapel – would any of us want to have a church inside our home? Other options: why not use the Holy Cross Chapel area as a meeting space requiring very little renovation cost. Aramark could deliver coffee, snacks, wraps to this common space and other vacant spaces at STU. Why does STU have to renovate two spaces to accommodate the contract? Since when does a service provider get to dictate university policy?

    UNB students and faculty come here use the chapel, too. It is a shared space under the shared services agreement along with the UNB library, bookstore, etc.

    The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission website shows the enrolment statistics for all Maritime universities. There has been a decline of more than 270 students at STU over the last three years. This, along with the addition of the new McCain building and with the larger decline in those staying in residence should free up a lot of space elsewhere, including in the classrooms and the cafeteria.

    Please reconsider the chapel relocation. So many have been married, baptized, etc. in this chapel and it is very precious to them.

  • Athena Cook

    Aramark is a U.S.-based multinational food, facilities and clothing services provider supplying businesses, educational institutions, sports facilities and healthcare institutions. It has operations in 22 countries around the world and in 2009 had revenues of US$12.3 billion.

    In the St. Thomas University food services agreement, Aramark dictates changes in cafeteria use. The cafeteria will soon be restricted to those on a campus meal plan. This means that students, faculty and staff who had previously been charged for individual food items are now charged a flat fee for an entire meal regardless of how much or little they purchase.

    Aramark prevents students, staff and faculty who don’t buy any food from entering the dining hall to study or meet during their hours of operation. As the dining hall had previously been used as study and/or meeting space by many students, faculty and staff changes to the accessibility of this space leaves those without meal plans without space to congregate and use Wi-Fi.

    Most off-campus students don’t have a meal plan. St. Thomas University is being forced to find alternate space for those who will no longer be allowed to access the cafeteria. In contrast, the University of New Brunswick negotiated the following in their food service agreement. University of New Brunswick – Food Services Agreement with Sodexo-article I, Section 1.3. Regulations and Access: All authorized representatives of UNB shall have full right of access to all areas of food services at any and all times. UNB reserves the right to use any food service areas from time to time for such purposes as registration of students, testing, dances, approved non-student activities, etc.

    The STU food services agreement is the major reason behind the chapel relocation – a case of the tail wagging the dog. Who negotiated this agreement and why did it not include the full access stipulation included in UNB’s agreement? If the stipulation had been included, maybe there would be no need for the chapel relocation.

    The decision to make the changes occurred over a period of months, but there was no consultation with stakeholders. The recommendation for the move was put forward by the finance committee. Relocation to Holy Cross will require renovations to both spaces (extensive renovations to the STU Chapel to make it a common, non-denominational space, including removal of stained glass windows) and will occur over the spring and summer.

    Was the cost of these renovations included in the overall food service contract cost? Would the company have been the low bidder if all these additional renovation/relocation costs had been included in the contract?

    Holy Cross students are worried about the stigma of being a residence housing a chapel – would any of us want to have a church inside our home? Other options: why not use the Holy Cross Chapel area as a meeting space requiring very little renovation cost. Aramark could deliver coffee, snacks, wraps to this common space and other vacant spaces at STU. Why does STU have to renovate two spaces to accommodate the contract? Since when does a service provider get to dictate university policy?

    UNB students and faculty come here use the chapel, too. It is a shared space under the shared services agreement along with the UNB library, bookstore, etc.

    The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission website shows the enrolment statistics for all Maritime universities. There has been a decline of more than 270 students at STU over the last three years. This, along with the addition of the new McCain building and with the larger decline in those staying in residence should free up a lot of space elsewhere, including in the classrooms and the cafeteria.

    Please reconsider the chapel relocation. So many have been married, baptized, etc. in this chapel and it is very precious to them.

  • Sheryl

    Try to keep in mind that faith is about the community of worshipers itself and not the actual place, as much as you are attached to it. This is not an elimination of your faith community, just a new place for it to gather. I don’t agree that people were not properly consulted, especially considering most people think the meal plan and space use are stupid to begin with as well as the impact it does have on those who attend service there who were not notified until the decisions were made.

    • Sheryl

      *Do not agree with the lack of consultation. Geesh way to go on clarity.

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