Separation of Smith and space

The Smith Space Committee held its second meeting on Wednesday after two student groups raised concerns about the allocation process. 

The Smith Space Committee held its second meeting on Wednesday after two student groups raised concerns about the allocation process.  

Members of the Smith Space Committee present included ASPSU University Affairs Director Laken Harrel, ASPSU Communication Director Brandon Harris and committee Chair Pv Jantz. Smith Memorial Student Union Manager Mark Russell was also present.

Every two years, the committee meets to reassess the amount of SMSU space that each student group needs in order to accommodate the most students.

In order to fit four or five new student groups into an office space, the committee currently plans to put more student groups into smaller offices—often sharing office space—and setting up larger conference rooms for group meetings.

However, while the current plan for the conference room would allow a number of new student groups to acquire office space, it would also require student groups in surrounding offices to move from their current location. For a wide variety of reasons, this was unacceptable to many student groups present at Wednesday’s meeting.   

“The conference room is the main cause of the shuffling. It’s 90 percent of why everyone is upset,” Russell said. “The idea is to move groups to smaller offices and have meetings in the conference room.”   

Student groups cited issues ranging from contractual agreements to conflict of interest as reasons for retaining their current spaces.

The Student Veteran Association currently occupies SMSU 14, one of the proposed conference rooms. SVA President Cody Noren explained that moving the group from such a visible location would be disadvantageous to veteran students across the campus.

One veteran that came to their office told Noren that his wife and daughter had committed suicide during the first month of his deployment, and that he was considering doing the same thing. Noren said the man told him seeing the SVA sign and finding their office was the reason he changed his mind.  

However, members of the Smith Space Committee pointed out that the SVA’s current room was originally designed as a conference room.

“Why don’t we just find another conference room?” asked a representative of the Pacific Islander’s Club.  

After hearing this, the committee acknowledged that this would indeed solve many of the current issues with the allocation. However, finding that space is easier said than done.  

“We have to work with what we know we have,” Russell said. “However, we’re fairly confident that’ll we get something in the basement.”  

Over the course of the meeting, the committee gave of number of rationales for why they make the decisions they do. Their main point was limited space.  

Of the entire building, only 55 percent is allocated for student use—the rest is for individual departments, administrative offices and external parties, such as renters and retail, Russell said.  

Because of the limited space actually available to students, the real problem is not mismanagement or wrongly allocated offices, but simply the limited amount of space that the committee has with which to work.

“Every year, the administration takes up more and more space,” Jantz said. “The university pays for 30 percent of the building. This doesn’t include the utilities which we foot the bill for.”

Jantz said that students pay for the majority of the costs associated with SMSU, while the administration continues to have a larger presence and the final say in how the building is managed. 

“There is definitely a disparity in what students pay to what they actually get,” Russell said. “We’re looking to decrease that disparity by increasing student space and expandingsocial services to reflect what students pay.”   

According to Jantz, the Smith Space Committee only oversees 29 rooms.

“It’s all really a balancing act,” Jantz said.

Factors such as yearly activity, storage needs, membership growth, number and size of events hosted all go into the allocation equation and placement around SMSU, according to Jantz.

At the meeting, Jantz pointed out that student groups are not guaranteed office space year after year, even if they occupied a particular room for three or four years.

Part of the new allocation plan is to set up lockers in hallways for student groups to use. The committee views these areas as wasted space.

“Ideally, we’d like to give the lockers to groups that don’t have an office,” Jantz said.

The Smith Space Committee plans to announce the final proposal by June 2. ?