After Coffman renovation, groups adapt

Seventeen groups who lost space are staying in Coffman and face space issues.

Hmong Minnesota Student Association members, vice president Kue Thao, secretary Shuazong Vang and Jimmy Her, gather in the multi-use space on the second floor of Coffman Memorial Union on Wednesday afternoon. The group had its own space last year but lost it after the floor's renovation.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Hmong Minnesota Student Association members, vice president Kue Thao, secretary Shuazong Vang and Jimmy Her, gather in the multi-use space on the second floor of Coffman Memorial Union on Wednesday afternoon. The group had its own space last year but lost it after the floor's renovation.

Hailey Colwell

After losing office space in Coffman Union’s second floor redesign earlier this year, 17 student groups have settled into new meeting spots and routines.

For some groups, losing space has caused storage issues and difficulty reaching out to students. Though they no longer hold permanent space in Coffman, many groups are still there vying for multi-use space or paying for rooms.

The African Student Association used that space to hold office hours, store supplies and connect with students who had questions about the group.

Though the association holds board meetings in a conference room on Coffman’s third floor, losing its consistent space has made it difficult to communicate with students, Vice President Ifeyinwa Onyiuke said.

“It’s hard for them to find us,” she said.

Though the group sometimes uses cultural center offices like the Black Student Union or La Raza Student Cultural Center to hold discussions, Onyiuke said, the space still belongs to the cultural centers, not the African Student Association.

“They’ve sort of made it their own,” she said.

Student Unions and Activities Director Maggie Towle said during the summer that the second floor’s multi-use space was designed to accommodate student groups that don’t have office space. Students can hold meetings in semiprivate cubicles, check out supplies and reserve cabinet space to store their materials, she said.

SUA encourages the cultural centers and student groups with offices on the second floor to let others use their space and act as umbrella organizations to groups with similar interests, she said.

Some groups have tried to alleviate storage needs by renting out lockers in Coffman, but some members say the lockers are too small to fit their needs.

Colleges Against Cancer President Ali Kiernan said she often drives to Coffman to ferry materials from home now.

The group meets Sundays in the President’s Room on the Union’s third floor when most campus buildings aren’t open, she said.

After a certain number of uses, the group had to pay for the room, Kiernan said, and the price is putting a strain on the group’s budget.

The student group Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists settled into a new routine after moving its supplies out of Coffman, group co-chair Todd Baumgartner said. The group now meets in Folwell Hall and stores larger supplies at board members’ apartments, he said.

Biology Without Borders, which also lost space due to the redesign, holds its general meetings in the Science Teaching and Student Services building.

Officer Amanda Angel said the group’s board members turn to the second floor’s new multi-use space for meetings midday, trying to snag a cubicle or push tables together.

“We have to find each other in the big open space,” she said. “It would be nice to have a place to call ours.”

Though it also lost space in the redesign, the Hmong Minnesota Student Association still uses Coffman’s second floor on almost a daily basis, Vice President Kue Thao said.

The group holds office hours in the open space across from the Commuter Connection office, marking a spot for students to drop by and talk to each other during the day, he said.

Using the open space to meet allows the group to connect with non-Hmong students, Thao said, which was more difficult when it had its own space.

“It’s just more open and inviting,” he said.