Student leaders believe the university space committee plans to move two administrative offices into Smith Memorial Student Union, and at least one student leader is stoutly resisting.
Minutes of the university space committee meeting suggest that one such move is in the works but the other is still being studied.
Tracy Earll is chair of the Student Fee Committee but appeared before the SMSU advisory board as “an interested student leader,” saying she believes the center’s space should be devoted to students and not to administrative uses.
Earll said she believes the space committee plans to move the Office of Graduate Studies and Research from Room 117 of Cramer Hall into the space vacated by Counseling and Psychological Services. CAPS has moved into its new home in the University Center building.
Wendy Endress, dean of students, told the board the move is ticketed for January.
The most recent minutes of the space committee, dated Sept. 23, do not show that particular move. Cathy Dyck, associate vice president for finance and planning and a member of the space committee, said she does not recall any such decision.
“The last I heard, there is still research to be done,” she said.
The space committee’s Sept. 23 minutes bear out her statement. They show that there are proposals to move both the Graduate Studies and Research Office and the Office of Institutional Research and Sustainability into that space.
Robyn Pierce, facilities architect, was to collect more details about Graduate Studies occupying the space. She was also to collect additional information and departmental requirements, to determine appropriate relocations in the former CAPS space.
Earll told the SMSU board the space committee’s plan would also move one or more of the president’s assistants into the space. That was verified by space-committee minutes, which stated that “one of the perimeter offices (M305) in the former CAPS space could be used for Ed Washington. A move or trade of space may be suggested once permanent occupants are located in the mezzanine space.” Washington is program officer for community relations.
Chase Lo Greco, one of two student members present at the SMSU board meeting, asked Earll, “What do the students want?” The other student present was the outgoing chairman, Rebecca Pierce.
Earll said, “I feel very strongly about what goes into this building.” She said she couldn’t speak for all students, but she has a strong personal conviction that the center should be for students and not for other uses. She feels any available space should be considered for such student-related functions as a disability center or an expansion of the Information and Academic Support Center.
“I am dedicated to making this a real student union,” she said. She told the board she has written letters to the space committee voicing her protests and asking for clarification but has gotten no response.
The committee’s minutes show that Earll’s letter was discussed and commented on.
The minutes state, in response to Earll’s letter, “The committee recognizes the importance of the student union function and activities in SMSU and for the campus community. The committee also recognizes that the location of the CAPS space is in Library East, the portion of the building that is funded, constructed and operated by Education and General Funds money.”
The minutes state that the student-fee-funded portion of this space upgrade was exclusively for seismic bracing of the building. Any funds for tenant improvement are paid for by education and general-funds money.
The response to Earll was to include that Mike Irish, director of facilities, “will clarify for the space committee the breakdown in costs for these expenses. This information will assist the space committee in making a determination of the best fit for the student union and the campus occupants.”
This is the rubbing point in the controversy. SMSU was built in sections. A quarter of SMSU, from ground to top, is, in essence, a separate building called Library East. Its use is controlled by the university, not by the students
At the SMSU advisory board meeting, the question was raised as to how the students might gain control of Library East. Would they be able to “buy out” university control?
John Eckman, assistant director of auxiliaries, asked, “How much would this cost, and would student government fund that cost?” Earll replied that she could give no immediate answer, but she believes the advisory board should take action to investigate bringing the center building under advisory board control.
In addition to barring the location of the graduate office and a presidential assistant, she would like to see the removal of Telco, a Library East tenant. Several board members characterized some parts of Library East as a totally remote entity in which some spaces are barred from general entry.
Board members expressed the intent to look into the possibilities and also to confer with the student space committee, a separate entity from the university space committee.
It was noted at the advisory board meeting that CAPS was under Student Affairs, and in theory the space still is allocated to Student Affairs. Earll maintained that this should be changed so that it, along with the rest of the building, should be under advisory board control.