Construction is set to begin today on the third floor of the University Center, transforming the largely underused lounge above Skibo Coffeehouse into new student organization offices. University Provost Mark Kamlet approved the plan last Friday.
The Old Student Center and the West Garages are to be demolished to make room for the Gates Center for Computer Science, which had left many student groups scrambling to get new space for their activities.
The Old Student Center and the West Garages together house student groups including SoHo, the Photo Club, CMU EMS, Pioneers, the Society of Automotive Engineers, and CIA.
This new construction on the third floor of the UC will provide space to some of the groups being displaced, but a plan to relocate the remaining groups to the basement of a renovated East Campus Garage has yet to be finalized.
Cheers to the Office of Student Activities and student government for the work they have done so far. Let?s hope the East Campus Garage basement project comes to fruition speedily.
In the process of developing a plan to accommodate those who would be displaced student government and the Office of Student Activities faced broader questions; particularly about the lack of student space at Carnegie Mellon. After resolving the immediate crisis, however, I?m afraid that efforts to resolve the larger problems will fall to the wayside.
CMU students still need a place of our own ? somewhere welcoming and useful to all students and student groups. Some would say that the UC is that place, but CMU opted to create the University Center, not a student center.
Of course, many students pass through the UC, eat there, or exercise there. But the student-oriented areas are not contiguous; they are broken up by the first and second floor, which are more geared toward hosting conferences and meetings. The vast majority of students don?t even know that the third-floor student organization offices exist.
In the early stages of planning to accommodate the students who will be displaced by the construction for the Gates building, the Office of Student Activities and Student Government entertained and advocated a number of compelling proposals. Among them was the suggestion of allocating space in the University Center basement to student organizations. With WRCT, the mailroom, and a new eatery and game room, the basement of the University Center has the potential to be a student hub. That sort of development might have been a step in the right direction.
But there wasn?t the support from above. The agreed-upon fix addresses only the problems directly caused by the construction of the Gates Center.
As it stands, moving more student groups to the third floor of the UC will increase ? if only slightly ? the centralization of student organizations on campus. But the third floor is still invisible to most of the student body.
It is a disservice to students that student government, student media outlets, and cultural and special-interest groups are strewn across the UC and across the campus, tucked away in unknown corners. It is no wonder that these groups have had a difficult time communicating and collaborating.
A centralized, functional student center would facilitate interaction and promote unity among students and student groups. It would give students and student groups common ground ? literally ? where they have none now.
I know this can?t happen overnight, but it?s got to be done. Developing the UC into a true student center, or creating an all-new student center, should enter the planning stages now ? so the next time an opportunity to make some big changes comes along, students don?t get passed by again.