Coffman Union: sterile and barren

Would it kill anybody to make it less like an office building and more like a student union?

Coffman Union is a giant $72 million quarantine room. Coffman is so sterile and professional that some people undoubtedly mistake the lobby for a hospital waiting room. The walls are barren and a sense of character is missing. The atmosphere directly contrasts the lively soccer games and Frisbee exploits of Northrop Mall. It also fails to fit in with the bridge and the blinding glare of the Weisman Art Museum – more needs to be done to make Coffman unique in students’ minds.

One part of Coffman needs special help. It’s called The Whole, but in reality it isn’t all there. It’s meant to be a type of underground club, but the atmosphere is deadening. The concrete is hard and humorless, and the gray paint on the walls doesn’t help things. As is, there really isn’t a chance for an up-and-coming John Travolta a la “Saturday Night Fever” to truly strut his stuff because the club is not dance friendly. Where is the creativity? The lighting could be less dreary. A few brass poles would add a unique touch. A few wall murals and an odd sculpture are badly needed to make The Whole more than the fallout shelter for Coffman.

Coffman needs to develop a student aura. Granted, that takes time, but Coffman will need more than a really cool fountain and some fake fireplaces. The University should solicit some artists and students for ideas as to how to make Coffman “cooler.” Maybe a “student soapbox” area could be designated to encourage students to read poetry or spout opinions. Because the building is meant to resemble a gopher head, wouldn’t it be cool if it actually had some live gophers on display? There needs to be more to connect students to Coffman than just chain restaurants and Starbucks galore. Graduates will remember the tippable Chinese cows of the St. Paul campus or the neat nooks of Walter Library, but as it is, they probably won’t remember Coffman with the same fondness.