Groups confused by office moves

New office space allocations for student groups in the Smith Memorial Student Union have a few groups saying they are being moved out of their current office space with no warning that a change was being considered.

The proposed changes where announced Monday by the Space Allocation Committee of the Smith Advisory Board, a student committee charged with assigning space to all student groups.

Acquisition of new office space on the SMSU first floor mezzanine has allowed the committee to give office space to several groups that previously had none, but the committee has also proposed moving three groups out of space they currently occupy.

Members of OSPIRG and Students for Unity, which currently share an office in the SMSU Mezzanine, said that they were disappointed to discover that the committee has proposed separating their offices and moving the groups to new office space down a hallway on the mezzanine, which the groups say is much less visible than their current office.

The two groups’ current office space, with a glass wall overlooking the building’s main lobby, has been reassigned to the Pre-Health Society.

OSPIRG Vice Chair Amy Connolly and Students for Unity member Kento Azegami both said that they were under the impression that the space allocation applications were simply to renew their claim on their current space and had not realized that their office could be moved.

"We specifically requested to stay in our office," Azegami said. "There wasn’t any indication that there was going to be some major changing and shaking up."

The proposal appeared to be an example of political activist groups "getting shoved in the corner," according to Connolly, who said that she was disappointed that members of the student groups were not involved in the committee’s decision process.

OSPIRG and Students for Unity weren’t the only groups moved without request.

The Portland Spectator was allocated a larger space in Smith sub-basement after the group requested its current space. The Vanguard’s ad office was allocated space in the basement after the newspaper requested its first-floor space.

Student groups have an opportunity to appeal their space allocations beginning today. As of press time, three groups have signed up to appeal: Students For Unity, the Mega Gamers and the Vanguard. The Space Allocation Committee is scheduled to give final space assignments March 15.

The committee used a point system to determine the eligibility of each group for office space. Groups were assigned from 0 to 80 points based on how often the group meets, the group’s relationships with other groups, community involvement, essentialness of office space, Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP) policy adherence and advisor recommendation. Groups also received a separate rating based on their volume of membership.

The point system was established in order to prioritize the allocation of space by what groups had the greatest need, according to Smith Advisory Board Chair Nicole Browning.

"Our objective was to accommodate as many groups as possible," she said.

The space committee initially required groups to score at least 60 points in order to qualify for space, but the threshold was lowered when the committee realized that adequate space was available to accommodate groups with lower scores, according to Browning.

OSPIRG scored a relatively low 50 points on the scale in part because they were awarded 0 out of a possible 20 points for SALP policy adherence. OSPIRG was the only high-volume membership groups not to receive the SALP policy adherence points. Students For Unity was given 65 points. Pre-Health Society also received 65 points, but was rated at a higher membership volume level.

If the proposed moves stick, it would be the biggest re-ordering of student group space since "the swap" of 1999-2000, a massive reordering of Smith which moved many student group offices from the upper floors of Smith to the lower levels in order to provide greater visibility. At the same time, student services run by university funds were moved to mezzanine and upper levels.

With the opening of a dedicated student health center, first floor mezzanine levels became available, and student leaders secured the space for student groups.

University administration approved a request for the Smith Advisory Board to take over office space on the first floor mezzanine in need of significant repair and remodeling if the board would cover the remodeling costs. To cover renovations, $200,000 of student building fee money has been set aside, according to Tracy Earll, who served on the Student Building Fee Committee.

When it was announced that the telecommunications offices located on the second floor mezzanine of Smith would move to Shattuck Hall this spring, the administration also offered the space to the Smith Advisory Board to use for more student group offices. Because of this, this year is the first year that the Space Allocation Committee has had new space to allocate since the mezzanine opened in 2002.

Click here to view the Space Committee Evaluation Matrix PDF (990 Kb)