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Waiting on the Promise

by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts & Culture Writer

It was Monday morning. The day begun with a coffee at the downtown Starbucks when I stumbled upon a small poster taped to one of the lamp posts. The image was a busy workstation, but what ultimately proved attention grabbing was the word in yellow background and white font. The word was “promised”. Cross the street and you see another image, only this time it’s with a woman glued to her laptop screen, presumably stressed, presumably a student. Cross the street to the east of University Avenue and yet another image is taped on a post. This time it shows an individual’s empty pockets. Finally, the last one was taped on a post right outside a particular building. Four images a student can relate to, all of them falling under the theme of one word: promised.

Now these posters could be unrelated to the topic at hand, just as much as they could be a direct reaction as well. Either way, the timing of the images is next to impeccable.

Among the earliest articles published in this year’s Lance run was about the School of Creative Arts, particularly the rather infamous delay of its Armouries building located downtown. At this stage of the game the story is beginning to sound like a broken record. Creative art students were expecting to start off the year in a brand-new state of the art facility, only to be met with a delay in its construction, which can be stacked on top of other delays the building has had since its inception. The announcement of the delay only came a couple of weeks prior to the beginning of classes, not only leading to a disappointing start to the year but also sent SoCA students and faculty in a bit of a panic. The school was fully prepared to make the move downtown, which suddenly transitioned to re-assembling all resources in the aging facilities they currently reside in. Much to their credit, they have managed to sustain under these circumstances, with the typical reassurances made. The building is being worked on hard, and it will eventually be ready to be shown to the public, much like an artist handling a piece of their own work.

The moment seemed to finally arrive when the school announced a public tour that would be held on the afternoon of Dec.1. Eyes and ears propped up and excitement was brewing. Many were waiting to finally see what lies beyond those closed doors, whether it was for the architectural design or to see what fresh new resources that both visual art and music students were about to receive. A reveal a few years in the making, people were more than ready to feast their eyes on this highly promised building. In other words, pop the champagne because this was about damn time.

But then literally a day before the open house was scheduled to begin, the event was cancelled and effectively postponed to a tentative date in January. The reason cited was to ensure the cleanliness of its eventual occupancy by students and faculty. This is a fair and a valid concern. After all, if you were hosting a dinner party, you’d want to make sure the home is in pristine shape before anyone steps foot inside. Yet if the initial delay served as a slap to the face to the interested parties, then the sudden delay of the open-house, a mere preview of the facility students will come to inhabit, is proving to be an active taunt.

To quote a somewhat obscure video game series: “They played us like a damn fiddle!”

Obviously, this is not to say the university is doing this purposefully. To their credit the Armouries’ development likely turned out to be a taller order than expected. With it being a heritage site located in the heart of the city, there is a high degree of red tape to wade through compared to building something from scratch. Yet with the institution making efforts to roll out their promotions on the notion of “promise”, it’s hard to not feel just a tad bit burnt here. Even if this incident only affects School of Creative Arts students, to have the institution constantly rollback on this project accentuates a troubling act of saying one thing and doing another.

Things already began on a rather sour note when SoCA students were fully expecting to start their year in the Armouries, only to remain in the ever aging Lebel and School of Music buildings until January. The university should have used this experience to learn to not announce anything until you know for certain that it will be 100% and ready for primetime. While nobody is denying the benefit the Armouries building will provide to SoCA students, to constantly peddle back on dates and promises quickly leads to discord, which could ultimately lead to distrust. For an institution building its image on the idea of “promise”, these actions are the exact kinds the university should avoid. Perhaps their enthusiasm for the building is causing them to jump the gun a bit, but considering how they’ve practically toyed with the expectations of students over the course of a few years, it’s safe to say they should be more self-aware to their actions, regardless of the scenario.

At the end of the day, the building is going to be finished. It is a thing that will eventually happen, and it will likely be received well. But going forward the university needs to take greater responsibilities for the promises they make. They did not have to announce an open house, but they did, and by delaying the date of an event they really had no obligation to hold, it further sours an already tainted experience. While the development of the Armouries has proven to be deeply complicated, the act of living up to your words should always remain simple.

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