Space allocation debate extended

An ad-hoc committee will decide on Coffman Union space use.

by Laura Sievert

The process of reviewing culture center office space on Coffman UnionâÄôs second floor was meant to last two months, but disagreement over which groups could claim the limited space may now stretch the discussion to eight long months.

The Student Union and ActivitiesâÄô Board of Governors voted Thursday in favor of delaying the decision to gather more information on how student groups can best use the space, Board President Joel Livingood said.

After some groups that werenâÄôt given office space in Coffman complained, the board has been reviewing the second floor by administering surveys, hosting open forums and conducting meetings since September.

The board has considered removing some of the culture centers that currently hold office space on the floor and replacing them with a resource center available to all student organizations.

On Nov. 4, the Policy Committee, made up of four board members, recommended the freeze. The board agreed.

The boardâÄôs executive committee met last week to work out a timeline for the delayed process. It elected an ad-hoc committee âÄî per the Policy CommitteeâÄôs recommendation âÄî that will meet various times over the coming months.

The committee will be made up of three representatives from groups that do not currently have space in Coffman, three representatives from groups that do hold office space, one board member and Livingood. The committee is designed to give the board new ideas for how to use the space that will benefit all student groups, Livingood said.

The tentative schedule has the ad-hoc committee voting on April 21, 2011 to determine its final recommendation, which will be made to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart.

Rinehart has been very hands-off throughout the space allocation proceedings, Livingood said.

“This process was brought on by students,” he said. “[Rinehart] wants students to gather the feedback and make a sound recommendation as well.”

Rinehart, who received the recommendation from Livingood this weekend, supported the boardâÄôs decision to freeze the allocation, and approved its time line for the ad-hoc committee.

âÄúIt was very wise to take more time for the process,âÄù he said, âÄúuntil they have talked to as many members of the community as possible.âÄù

Rinehart also said he admired the board for making the process transparent to the students, and for trying to get their perspectives.  He compared the difficulty of allocating space to the difficulty of allocating money, saying âÄúthereâÄôs never enough to go around.âÄù

Brian Garrow, member of the WomenâÄôs Student Activist Collective as well as the Queer Student Culture Center, both of which have office space in CoffmanâÄôs second floor, agreed with the boardâÄôs recommendation to delay making a final decision.

The process was very rushed, he said, and the survey the board administered was pushing resources that the culture centers on the second floor already provide.

Garrow also questioned why, if certain groups were upset at being denied the free use of office space, none of them voiced their opinions at the open forums in October, as almost every person who spoke was defending the culture center space.

Livingood said he hopes that with the extra time, the ad-hoc committee will find the best solution for CoffmanâÄôs second floor.