Recent discussions of renovations for the University Center have sparked much controversy and frustration among students, especially those who are heavily involved on campus. The past month has held numerous conversations and presentations by university employees such as Margaret Higgins, Mike London, JJ Thorp, Christina Sanchez, and architects from Sasaki Associates. In my quest for accurate information on the topic, I have come to several flaws in their reasoning, and perhaps questions that could be addressed.
First, considering that we are in an economic recession, and the school has referenced numerous times the “financial uncertainty” we face, I can’t help but wonder how they plan to completely renovate Harney Science Center, the bottom floors of Phelan, AND the first, fourth and fifth (and possibly third) floors of UC (none of which they have secured all the funding for), especially since the school constructed Outtahere Café next to Crossroads this past summer and are already planning something new in its place. An accurate demonstration of efficiency? Hardly. From an outside perspective, it seems as though the school may be biting off more than it can chew, especially considering how the renovations of Kalmanovitz Hall were drawn out for so many years.
Secondly, while the idea of a Barnes-and-Noble-like atmosphere being created out of Crossroads and the University Bookstore is a novel concept, it hardly seems practical. Not only does the bookstore typically close around 7 p.m. while Crossroads is meant to be a late night place for students to hang out, but what student really wants to hang out in a place that marks the prices of their textbooks up a solid 50 percent? Plans also potentially involve restructuring Parina lounge and removing the computer lab, which is interesting, considering that it is probably the single most used lab on campus, outside of the library.
Thirdly, in the images shown by the architects at the ASUSF Senate Fall Summit, Thorp and Sanchez, the fourth and fifth floors of UC, which are mostly intended to be a “student center,” will be around 60 percent USF staff space, and a mere 40 percent student space. Not to mention that they intend the student space to be mostly conference rooms that can be rented out by the 150+ USF clubs and orgs. This especially poses a problem for groups such as ASUSF Voices, USFtv, and the Foghorn (all of which will be displaced by the Phelan renovations) who require constant access to their expensive equipment as well as work or rehearsal space. Administrators of the project have thus far been unable to guarantee offices for these organizations (or any organizations for that matter, even those that already hold office space), 24/7 access to the newly renovated space, or much of anything for that matter.
Students have provided in-depth and comprehensive questions to those in charge of these projects, and have been rewarded by blatant dismissal of or lack of a concrete answer to their concerns. Thorp and Sanchez clearly expressed their desire to make UC a place that will be helpful to students in the future, and exuded a strong impression that what the students say now doesn’t matter all that much, because after all, we will all graduate in a couple years won’t we? They are the people who will work here for the next decade or more and their facilities are responsible for drawing new students to the school. We’re just the students, what do we matter?
Anxiety runs high in this time of economic crisis, when groups that have been on campus for decades face expulsion from their offices for the sake of “shared space.”