Photo by Kyle West

By: Sam Marchetti  

If you have ever studied in the H.G. Thode Library of Science and Engineering, you have probably visited the third floor at some point. For many students, it strikes them as unfair that most of this floor is only accessible to students in the integrated science program. However, what most students don't realize is that the third floor of Thode is not a full floor.

The third floor covers only about 50 per cent of the ground space covered by the building itself. Of this, about a third is devoted to faculty office space for the school of interdisciplinary sciences and another third is inaccessible storage space used by facility services. The final third is actually split between two wings.  

One of these wings is the ThInk Space, an active learning classroom available for use by anyone in the faculty of science, and the other is the iStudy, a dedicated study space for integrated science students. Thus, not only does this study space account for a very small amount of the total finished space on the third floor of Thode, but the third floor itself is largely unfinished.

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A large portion of the space above the second floor, over 30 per cent of the ground area covered by the library, is actually an open rooftop. Windows along the curved portion of the roof look down into the second and first floors around the perimeter, leaving an open area of almost 10,000 square feet surrounded by story-high walls.

Inspecting an aerial view of Thode, you’ll find that there is almost nothing up there. While it is easy to understand students’ frustration given that they are restricted access from what is the most noticeable part of the third floor, what should be more frustrating is this massive area, apparently left unused for no discernible reason. With so much unused space, I think it's fair to consider transforming it into something all students can enjoy.

In November, I wrote an article about the lack of natural elements integrated into McMaster University’s study spaces. This unused space provides a unique opportunity to change that. For example, a rooftop garden could be created, complete with heating elements to keep it useable year-round. The rooftop space already has walls on all sides, protecting it from most wind damage.

A garden in the library could have serious benefits for the mental health of its users, especially during exam season when students spend endless hours there. Imagine, instead of taking a break by walking around the jam-packed Thode study spaces, you could take a walk in a garden, without even leaving the building.

Another possibility for this space could be something that's been attempted at McMaster before: an outdoor classroom. Recently, this was accomplished in the form of the Indigenous circle. This outdoor amphitheater is ideal for the kind of learning that the Indigenous studies program promotes, and has received positive feedback from its students and faculty.

The unused space on the third floor of Thode is large enough to create a small outdoor lecture theatre, and the integration of a canvas roof and heating lamps could easily ensure year-round use of the space. Based on the feedback from the Indigenous circle, it’s easy to see the potential benefits of having a similar space that is adapted to science lectures.

Not only would an outdoor lecture theatre be an interesting addition to our teaching spaces, but it could serve as a point of attraction for future students and guest speakers. McMaster already has a reputation for being innovative thinking, so why not add a teaching space that reflects our progressive focus?

Although Thode’s seemingly ‘private’ third floor is irksome to many students, what should cause greater outrage is the existence of a very unique, inaccessible space to all students. Whether we decide to integrate nature into our study spaces, or choose another avenue to benefit the student population, this empty space should be transformed into something more than just an empty rooftop.


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*name has been changed to protect identity

Jamie*, a science student and former faculty rep, was not expecting they would have to file a human rights complaint against three fellow science representatives. But due to a lack of clear disciplinary action, they have had to go the McMaster Equity and Inclusion Office to report three students who repeatedly used the n-word on social media.

On Mar. 31, the day before the first day of Welcome Week representative training, one of the representatives in question posed a video of himself and two other representatives using the n-word onto his public Snapchat story. Unsure of their next course of action, Jamie recorded the video.

They decided to hold off on sharing it until Aug. 30, when they witnessed the planners taking decisive actions against other representatives who were behaving in a similar manner.

“So in my [rep group], there were two girls who were treating me like a [stereotype], using certain phrases and when I told them to stop, they just laughed. I brought it up to the [Welcome Week science] planners and they were cut the next morning,” they said.

“So the night this happened, I sent the video forward to my executive, who forwarded it to the planners. I figured 'oh if you're going to handle this issue you might as well handle this one,’” they added.

The planners then set up a meeting with Jamie the next day and promised all science representatives would receive additional training after Welcome Week. Jamie then contacted McMaster Students Union Diversity Services on Sept. 1, who tried to help them through the MSU branch.

Two of the representatives were still allowed to participate during Welcome Week and have not received any additional training. 

According to Jamie, Diversity Services was not contacted to facilitate any additional anti-oppression practices training other than the general session given to all Welcome Week representatives during their Aug. training. Diversity Services later confirmed this via email.

After talking with the planners and the MSU vice president (Administration), Diversity Services relayed to Jamie that they could not further censure the representatives in question because they were not in their representative suits in the video. Jamie, however, questions the legitimacy of that ruling.

“In our first email from our planners, it said whether you're in the suit or not in the suit, you're still representing the Faculty of Science and science representatives,” they said.

After nearly two months, Jamie decided to post the full video in the Rep Network Facebook group on Oct. 27, where they asked why these students were allowed to continue to represent the Faculty of Science.

Within an hour, the video was taken down and Jamie was kicked out of the Rep Network group. They received an email from the McMaster Science Society president and the Welcome Week faculty coordinator, both of whom gave them different reasons for being kicked out of the group.

The former stated that the video had potentially triggering content and cited that for its removal while the latter stated they had not posted the video with the consent of those recorded. Jamie asked to be added back to the group, but still remains barred from it.

Both stated that disciplinary action had been taken, but neitthem would elaborate to Jamie what course of action had been taken. Two of the representatives were still allowed to participate during Welcome Week and have not received any additional training. The third rep in question was cut from the team because he failed to show up to a social event he had planned as an executive.

Following this experience, Jamie has filed a formal complaint with the Equity and Inclusion Office and hopes that no one else will go through such an ordeal.

“I'm hoping there will be a framework in the future, that way when someone comes forward with something like this, there's a protocol to follow and that in the event that the people involved are too close to the issue, that the planners and whoever else is involved can reach out to other bodies on campus,” they said.

“That way when you bring something up you're not left in the dark, the issue isn't brushed aside and something like this isn't allowed to flourish during the whole Welcome Week repping experience,” they added.

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By: Shruti Ramesh - WGEN Contributor

As a woman in academic spaces, something that is too uncommon is the presence of women who look like me and whose names sound like mine.

It’s not that these women aren’t out there. At McMaster alone, we have women of colour who are competitive in their fields across numerous disciplines. The caveat is that spaces meant to promote positive representation for women in academia, in politics and in leadership run the risk of not adequately representing and supporting the communities they are supposed to.

An upcoming event in the McMaster community is the International Women in Science Day Conference to be hosted on Feb. 11. The purpose of the conference is to bring female-identifying science students and faculty together to “empower one another, and engage in discussion about what it means to be a woman in science”.

Upon speaking with a member of their executive and reviewing their materials, we had an overall positive impression of the team and the goals they set out to achieve with running this event. Of particular interest is the structure of the conference. It is divided into the past, the present and the future in order to chart the trajectory of the role women have played and continue to play in the field. The keynotes, panelists and workshops bring together women from different academic backgrounds to give prospective attendees a holistic perspective about what a career in science could look like and the narratives of lived experience that accompany such a career.

With this in mind, there is one facet of the conference that is important to examine further.  Looking at the lineup of panelists and speakers leaves one with the impression that women in science are almost exclusively white. 11 of the 12 panelists and both keynote speakers are white women. We’d like to acknowledge that this was not entirely in the hands of the IWISCI executive team. When planning an event with speakers, you are limited by who agrees to participate and the recruitment process can be a difficult task.

Looking at the lineup of panelists and speakers leaves one with the impression that women in science are almost exclusively white.

The executives did reach out to women from diverse backgrounds in keeping with the focus on identity and interplay of intersectionality that is central to the event. However, when over 92 per cent of the space taken up by panelists and speakers is filled with white voices, it is clear more needs to be done.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the aims of this event. The narrative of women facing ongoing obstacles pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields is one that continues to repeat itself, and remains a valuable conversation. Further, it is evident the care the executive team has put into giving women avenues to share their experiences and learn from each other. It is still important to be mindful that when labeling a space as intersectional, it naturally calls attention to gaps in representation. The voices missing from many conversations about women’s experiences speak to the bigger picture. It reinforces that despite progress, there is a need to continue working to ensure feminist and academic spaces alike are inclusive in the face of systemic barriers.

I take myself back to my first Chem 1A03 lecture in September 2013. If I were to look around, I would see black and Indigenous women, racialized women and white women as well. Amidst the crowd I could be certain there would be women who looked like me and whose names sounded like mine. Moving forward, in creating spaces for equity-seeking communities, we need to be more intentional. We need to give women in all fields of the future the representation they deserve.

A $43 million joint investment for McMaster University towards science and engineering teaching and research capacity was announced on Friday, Sept. 23.

The project totals at $75 million, with the university contributing $24.3 million and the Independent Electricity System Operator contributing $7.6 million.

The hefty investment from the federal and provincial governments was done in part with the Government of Canada’s Innovation Agenda, which sets out to create more jobs, drive growth across all industries and improve the lives of all Canadians.

The press conference was well attended, including speeches from Filomena Tassi, Member of Parliament for Hamilton West-Ancanster-Dundas and by the Hon. Eleanor McMahon.

“Our post-secondary education sector and the applied research that it produces will drive innovation today and the economy of tomorrow. McMaster has a world-class engineering and science faculty and students will now have state-of-the-art facilities in which to work and learn,” said Tassi in a press release.

In terms of raw numbers, $37.5 million will be from the federal government while the provincial government is set to contribute the remaining $5.5 million.

The substantial funding from the federal government is being allocated through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, which will place emphasis on both modernizing research along with environmental sustainability.

The funding will be used to support various projects such as the Arthur Bourns Building repair, Retrofit, Addition, Campus COGEN project. The long-term goal with a facilities upgrade consists of improving science and engineering research, accelerating commercialization and enhancing energy conservation at McMaster.

The $7.6 million secured from the Independent Electricity System Operator will be used to increase efficiency of the renovated ABB labs as well as across campus.

Alongside this, plans for the Combined Heat and Power co-generation plant have been underway. Also labelled as the COGEN project, the creation of the plant is expected to save 15 percent on energy input as compared to traditional plants, thereby providing a substantial energy cost avoidance while contributing to the environment.

In terms of environmental sustainability, MSU president Justin Monaco-Barnes is proud of the progress made in ensuring that sufficient funding is used to accelerate energy saving efforts. “This expansion will not only give us a wide variety of tools to enhance [research and innovation], but it is done in a way that is environmentally friendly for everyone,” he said.

“One of the great things about this expansion, and sustainability initiatives in general, is that it affects all students in a positive way long after they are graduated,” explained Monaco-Barnes.

Aurora Coltman

Silhouette Intern

McMaster University will soon be exploring the method of conservation corridors in its own backyard.

Conservation corridors are plots of land conserved or restored that acts as a bridge to connect multiple plots of larger land. This connection promotes animal movement and migration, potentially bettering living conditions for wildlife.

McMaster professors Susan Dudley and Chad Harvey have organized a group of student volunteers who are working to help create a conservation corridor. The corridor is situated between the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and Cootes Paradise, off Lower Lions Club Road near Wilson Street.

“McMaster has the good fortune, and it looks like kind of by accident almost, of holding a really nice piece of property that has tremendous ecological diversity on it,” said Dudley, referring to the plot, which was purchased by the university in the 1960s for $1.

However, the plan for the land does not end at transforming it into a conservation corridor –the project will also transform the land into the McMaster Conservation Corridor Teaching and Research Facility. The 48 hectares of land will serve primarily as a research facility for science students, but the space will not be closed off to the public.

Dudley and Harvey hope to be able to employ the Smithsonian Dynamic Forest Plot Technique, in which land is divided into 20 by 20 metre gridlocks. All flora and fauna within each grid will be tagged and placed.  As records are updated, it presents an opportunity to show what prospers where, and how to better use the space.

The two professors are able to go forward with their plan after receiving a grant of $5,000 from President Patrick Deane’s Forward with Integrity movement in December 2012, and having the grant matched by the Faculty of Science. Most recently, they received a $140,000 grant from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.

Dudley explained that with the grant money, the group would be able to build the gridlock, resettle the trail on the property, manage the space, and provide maintenance for it. They hope to be able to hold long-term experiments on the property in the future, such as scrutinizing the flow of fauna through the plot, and conducting other observatory experiments involving insects and bees.

“What we’re thinking about is we may start to put in native plants, we may ask schools to grow some special plants that you would have to plant in rather than sow as seeds,” said Dudley.

The group of McMaster students and professors have high hopes for the project, and fully intend to realize those goals.

“We have a chance to learn a lot from this site,” said Dudley.

In using their grants and dedicated volunteers, Harvey and Dudley plan to take full advantage of that chance to have the project move forward and to become a leading resource in forestry.

Bushra Habib

The Silhouette

In Dec. 2013, President Patrick Deane’s “Forward with Integrity” initiative approved funding for 28 out of 54 proposals in the first call for projects, which were designed to improve the academic experience of McMaster students.

Half of the accepted projects were from faculties and areas centered on inquiry into the biological, physical and medical sciences, such as projects in the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Health Sciences, Rehabilitation Sciences and the School of Nursing.

With a total of nine approved projects, whether independent or in collaboration with other faculties, students from the Faculty of Science have their educational interests well represented.

Lisa Barty, the manager of the Science and Career Cooperative Education Office, requested funding to support the salary of a new experiential learning coordinator. “We received $5,000 from the FWI fund, that was generously matched by the Dean of Science. This funding will provide about 20 per cent of the required funds for our project,” said Barty.

The new position will manage current course offerings, such as Science and Life Science 3EP3, 3EX6 and 3RP3, while also facilitating the development of new opportunities. The Faculty’s investment in experiential learning opportunities exemplifies an ongoing commitment to enrich the academic journey of Science students.

“Based on the growing enrollment in these courses, I would say that students are finding applied placements a great way to apply their academic knowledge in the community. They are also a very useful tool in their career planning.”

Amidst continuing global economic turbulence, opportunities to develop career-related skills in a way that helps gain credit towards graduation are incredibly valuable. Not all students may be interested in cooperative education positions, and therefore experiential programs may be a more relevant choice. Barty emphasized that, “Experiential education allows our students not only to explore career options, but to reflect upon their own strengths and goals.”

One concern that students may have is that there may be scarcer co-op opportunities in the face of increasing enrollment. However, the Faculty aims to address these needs as well. “The Faculty of Science is planning to expand our cooperative education programs to meet the growing student demand for work integrated learning,” explained Barty.

“We are also exploring a formalized internship program and looking to build a framework to grow our applied science placements. Our students value the opportunity to gain professional networks, find mentors, and determine if further education is required to meet their career goals.”

Proposals for projects based on collaborative efforts and research pursuits between different areas of study are being accepted in the second round, which closes at the extended deadline of noon on Feb. 28.

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