31 October 2013

The university is considering rooftop gardens, nap pods and Fed-Square style big screens, after a survey into the campus buildings and amenities.

According to the #makemyuni survey, students and staff at the University of Melbourne want better transport, food and seating facilities.

“We have received a great deal of valuable input and insight into the priorities of our community,” Michael Tracey, Director of Campus Planning, said.

University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) President Kara Hadgraft has welcomed the campaign. “I feel that a campaign such as this is a really important step for the university,” she said.

According to the campaign, the university’s facilities shortfall starts the moment staff and students walk through the university gates. Sixty-six per cent of survey respondents flagged an issue associated with their immediate arrival on campus.

Bike users were particularly vocal about bike storage. “Secure places/cages to leave your bike overnight,” was one of the key suggestions from Science student Tayla Joi on Twitter.

The shortfall continues into student and staff lunchtimes, with food emerging as a key issue for the community. Survey respondents flagged a need for more kitchen facilities (such as toasters and microwaves) and for a wider range of food outlets.

“Most of the cafes offer the same things,” complained one respondent on Twitter.

University amenities organisations—including Property and Campus Services, UMSU and the union’s service provision body, MUSUL—are now putting food issues as a top priority.

A parallel issue revolves around a lack of seating and spaces, with 17% of survey respondents nominating it as the top issue the university needs to work on. 62% of respondents stated that the university’s outdoor spaces could be improved.

Many on Twitter concurred. “Think nap pods, sustainable rooftop gardens, colourful desk space for student start-ups,” urged campus business Carte Crêpes.

For Ms Hadgraft and the union, implementing some of #makemyuni’s ideas would be very welcome. Hadgraft flags the idea of the rooftop garden as possibly having potential.

“I would certainly be happy to finish the week off with a cool beverage on the top of the Baillieu and look out over the city,” Hadgraft said.

The university’s push for active students, on the other hand, appears to be falling short. Despite every student giving roughly $53 in SSAF money to Melbourne University Sport last year, only 4% of survey respondents stated that they had used any sport and leisure facilities.

MU Sport is now attempting to improve recreation opportunities with its “Sports Capital Improvement Plan”. #makemyuni took the pulse of the university community for seven weeks through a publicly available survey, as well as through social media.

The campaign’s response rate was somewhat muted; only about 10% of staff and 2% of students completed the campaign’s survey. Nonetheless, Mr Tracey sees the campaign as a success.

The next few months will be crucial for translating #makemyuni into concrete results. While university bodies are working on individual initiatives, PCS is in the process of developing a wider plan. The next stage of work is due to be opened up to consultation in October.

October’s plan may reveal a very interesting future for university facilities. #makemyuni threw up some unique and unusual suggestions, including adult playgrounds and Federation Square-style screens. For those wondering, adult playgrounds aren’t sex fields, they’re just like the playgrounds from our childhood, but bigger so that we aren’t too tall for the monkey bars.

Mr Tracey believes that the suggestions should be taken seriously. “There certainly is a chance that we would consider such ideas,” he said.

Funding levels, as ever, may affect the pace of work. The federal government’s funding cuts, as well as a possible repeal of the SSAF under a Coalition government, could affect amenities funding.

Mr Tracey is optimistic. “I am confident that there is no desire to stop investing in improving the campus amenity for students and staff,” he said.

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