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Is Dawson In A Squeeze? How the institution is dealing with its growing student population

By Jay Murphy

Dawson students in the Pepsi Forum - Via CTV Montreal

On my first day at Dawson this semester, I wove through the bustling crowd of people heading to their classes from the lower atrium. My view was limited to the person in front of me. What I couldn’t see was an impasse ahead: people were clogging the escalator. The long line behind me started to push, physically propelling me forward in their urgency to continue on their way. It was not their fault; there was no place to go.

It’s no surprise Dawson is a popular CEGEP choice. It offers many high-quality programs and is also one of the few public English colleges in Montreal. Its downtown location with metro accessibility also adds to its appeal.

Law 101 enforces the majority of Quebec students to study in French throughout primary and secondary school. Julia Smith, Administrative Secretary of the Academic Systems Office, suggests the surge in the popularity of English CEGEPs is mainly due to the increase in Francophone and Allophone applicants. She says, “The issue that Anglophone CEGEPs have is that everybody wants to come to them, including Francophone students, because many people want to continue in English later.”

Mr. Richard Filion, Director General, says that the CEGEP has reached its maximum capacity, which is causing the deficit of space. Despite Dawson being at capacity, he isn’t worried. He explains that there is a system in place to make sure that the school follows safety measures, and in doing so, does not exceed the number of people that would make the environment a dangerous one.

The demand for Dawson increased around 2010. Patricia Murphy, Social Service professor, explains that “there was a demographic blip; the second baby boom generation hit the CEGEP age at that time, so the numbers went up. We’re always getting projections that they will go down but they are not going down!”

There is a system in place to make sure that the school follows safety measures, and in doing so, does not exceed the number of people that would make the environment a dangerous one.

While Dawson is at its capacity, many Francophone CEGEPs are under-attended. In 2011, the Parti Quebecois proposed extending Law 101 to the CEGEP level. Some speculate that would restore the balance between attendances in CEGEPs, while others are greatly opposed to it. One of those people would be Mr. Filion. He is against this as it would “promote a linguistic divide.” He believes that this would infringe on people’s right to study in the language of their choice. He encourages Francophones to attend English CEGEPs in order to improve their English. He also encourages English students to maintain their ability to speak French.

This drastic increase in applicants has left many on the outside, looking in. As the number of applicants increases, the amount of competition is inevitably growing with it. Applicants who are being admitted are those with the best grades, causing others who may qualify, but who have moderate results, to be turned away. The individuals that are affected most by the overcrowding situation at Dawson are not so much the current students, but the invisible applicants who were rejected.

Carmela Gumelli, Dean of Academic Systems, says that in 2010 when Dawson experienced a considerable surplus of applicants, opening an external wing in the Pepsi Forum allowed them to accept an additional 300 students. It seems that expansion is the most plausible and feasible option for Dawson. Smith says the ability to better serve students and to make sure there is enough room for people who are qualified is a priority.

Mr. Filion admits that the Quebec Ministry of Education has acknowledged the request to expand. For now, the location is still classified information, but Mr. Filion says that the extension will not be on the Dawson grounds nor will there be another underground floor. In the meantime, I’ll be taking the stairs!



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