University claims more student space, leaves students' union in dark

Students interested in developing photos will have to look beyond the quad for a darkroom. The school’s darkroom was converted into office space over the summer, without notice given to the KSU.

A photo of the new office space, taken from the doorway. (Photo: Jacob Baker-Kretzmar)

Students interested in developing photos will have to look beyond the quad for a darkroom. The King’s Students’ Union darkroom was converted into office space over the summer, without notice given to the KSU.
“It’s not a space that is contracted to the students’ union, so it’s not a space that we have any legal rights to. It is a space that we have been using for years and years and years and years, and we really would have appreciated the university to kind of respect that a little more, even if it was just talking to us before-hand,” said KSU president Anna Dubinski.
King’s vice-president Kim Kierans confirmed both that the space didn’t belong to the KSU and that the KSU weren’t told the space was to be converted.

“People are very surprised … It ‘seems like such a King’s thing to have’.”

– King’s student Erica Guy, on new and prospective students and the darkroom

Dubinski said this is not the first time that the KSU has seen student space changed or taken away by the school’s administration.
“Over the years we’ve lost for the most part storage spaces on campus, and that’s happened at least twice in my time,” she said.
Kierans said the decision to convert the darkroom into office space was made in June after the board of governors decided to sell the dean of residence’s house on Coburg Road. With Dean Nick Hatt moving back into residence, he will be occupying the space previously used as the choir office.

The former darkroom. (Photo collected from: Maintenance report, 1995.)

“That left the thing about the choir… what do we do with them. The only space on campus was that space and it was not being well used, and hadn’t been used for a few years,” said Kierans.
“Our priority was to make sure that everything was ready for when the students came in September, and it’s a lot of work for our facilities people.”
All of the work to convert the space was done in-house. Alex Doyle, director of facilities, estimates that the material cost was between $400 and $500.
Second-year student Erica Guy, who often takes photos for societies and the students’ union, said when she was in first year, “no one knew if (the darkroom) was still up and running.”
Dubinski and Michaela Sam, KSU student life vice-president, said the space hadn’t been used in recent years, as the Visual Arts Society had not been ratified.
“It takes a lot of knowledge and skill to run a darkroom,” Dubinski said. “So in the absence of a society, it hasn’t been touched in the last few years.”
This summer, however, Dubinski said several students were in contact with her expressing their interest in photography and in using the space. It wasn’t until she went to the darkroom that she found the KSU’s belongings had been moved and the space had been converted.
Though Guy’s personal knowledge of film photography is limited, she feels it’s “unfortunate” the darkroom was “dumped.”
“I had a fair number of people ask me if King’s had their own darkroom and were disappointed when I said that we didn’t currently have one,” she said of her time working frosh week and King’s open house. “One thing I do think is funny is that people are also very surprised at this fact as it ‘seems like such a King’s thing to have’.”
For Guy, a member of the newly-ratified King’s Photography Club, the darkroom’s conversion is a lost opportunity for photographers like herself to learn more about working with film.
Sam said she is in contact with the Dalhousie Student Union’s internal vice-president about the possibility of jointly ratifying a society and working together to find a space for photography development.
The former darkroom. (Photo collected from: Maintenance report, 1995.)

Dubinski, Sam and Kierans all agree the conversion of the darkroom points to a larger issue: a lack of space on campus.
“I think there’s a lack of space for everyone on this campus,” Dubinski said. “The fact that there was no other office space on campus kind of troubles me on behalf of the university and that’s just the kind of nature of the size of our school.”
Kierans said the issue of space is something that administration is keenly aware of.
“I think we’re at our bursting point right now,” she said. “We need to get a handle on how we’re going to be able to provide the services that we need for our students, and the campus master plan, which is part of the strategic plan, will be the way to do that.”
With files from Jacob Baker-Kretzmar and Philippa Wolff.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

One reply on “University claims more student space, leaves students' union in dark”

I would be interested to have heard from facilities on what the other reasons for changing this room might have been.
I spent a great deal of time in there a number of years ago when there was, for a brief time, a photography society running with a president who was qualified to teach and run a darkroom. I was trained and certified to use the room alone. That said, the 1995 stock photo The Watch uses in this article doesn’t do much to convey the state of it in 2009. I am sure that ventilation was a huge issue as well as being up to fire-code.
When the photography society folded sometime around 2009 former members, regardless of their competency in using a darkroom, were barred from using it without being a member of a ratified and active photography society. I am also curious as to what the KSU might have asked for in terms of the qualifications for the running and teaching of a darkroom if it were still around?
In summation, I would say that the darkroom was certainly a loss, but it was a loss four or five years ago when nobody endeavoured to keep it open.

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