Renovation plans are as bad as the process

By Rebecca

Folks with the Coffman Memorial Union Board of Governors are planning to renovate Coffman Memorial Union, and they are not just talking about changing the color of the paint. If the current plans continue, Coffman will be closed for two years for an extravagant overhaul from the basement to the sixth floor. Our estimation is that Coffman will be much worse for students, student organizations, staff and others that use the building.
Articles in the Daily have only scratched the surface on what administrators are really planning. The time is now for more students to get involved with the process.
The board receives money from the student service fees committee every year and they will be asking for more support of their plans at the end of this month.
If you have an opinion about Coffman Union and how it serves or should serve students, then attend the public hearings on February 26-28.
What is at stake is not just whether a Barnes and Noble bookstore or an on-campus bar will be located in Coffman. It’s about the student union serving students, now and in the future. Will it be a place that we and our peers of the future will like to be, or will it be another shopping mall?
Progressive Student Organization sent the memo below to the Board of Governors (Feb. 5) with the interest of letting them know that the process for renovation is not acceptable.
They held five public meetings for people to listen to their plans. They did not release their plans on paper, give financial information or give concrete examples of other plans for renovation. Many tenants in Coffman are weary of the proposals because student needs are second or third to objectives unknown to us. We do know that all student centers and groups would be hid up on third floor in the plan. From that, we don’t like it. There are many other important matters. That is why people need to get involved.
Dear Coffman Union Board of Governors:

The Progressive Student Organization is writing to express our hopes and concerns for the plan to renovate Coffman Union. We have been on campus many years, and CMU serves our needs well. As for the recently announced plans to renovate Coffman Union, we would start by saying that students did not initiate this plan. There has been no convincing argument that complete renovation of the building is needed. This becomes much clearer after speaking in depth with other tenants in the building. Our assumption at this point is that minor changes need to be made and that is it.
With the multitude of forces that are involved in this process, we feel that student voices will be drowned out by the forces of privatization. What we mean is that the board started a process where no financial commitments from Morrill Hall have been publicly announced, except in its acceptance for the CMU board to seek outside funding. It does not have to be like this. Coffman Union meets the needs of students — sort of. We don’t need a shopping mall — we need more study space, later hours, better access for student organizations and the list goes on. Any process should start from asking those who use the building.
Our thoughts on renovation are:

PSO needs larger office space, not smaller. That is not opposed to more student organizations getting space in Coffman, we think more groups should be here. If we had it our way, administrators would be put in the upper floors and first and second floors would be student space. Organizations need real walls and not office cubicle dividers, and our offices are now inaccessible after hours and on the weekends. Student groups need access to the traffic that is spoken of in the renovation public presentations. Thus we do not find it adequate or acceptable to move to the third floor.
The Student Cultural Centers serve many needs on campus and should not be moved from their present locations on the first and second floors. They should only be moved if governing bodies within the centers decide they need to move. Decision-making power must reside with the centers’ leadership. We have worked and participated with members of the cultural centers for years in events held in the lounge spaces and throughout the building. Our sense of the situation is that members of the centers are firm in wanting to stay where they are. Maybe we are wrong, but that is our opinion. The Board of Governors should not violate this by moving any center.
The Food Services privatization is a campus-wide phenomena, and a negative one at that. It will impact the wages and benefits of student and regular workers in a negative way. Local small businesses will not be able to compete in this process, leaving the door open to only the big corporate chains. Putting the retail on the first floor places profit above students’ needs by giving the traffic flow to all of the private retailers. We oppose this. Services and retail will flourish fine on the ground floor and the spaces they have on first-floor. The CMU Board should work to ensure that any outside contracts signed include equitable, fair language for workers and ensure that the products offered meet the needs of students.
While some of the goals for renovation are justifiable, such as fixing leaking pipes, others are not. The Board of Governors will have many more problems on their hands if the process is not opened up. Verbal presentations with the concomitant lack of written information will only build mistrust and breed opposition to any plans. Courting private sources and entertaining extravagant plans of the Kelleresque type (in keeping with our past president who foolishly wasted our money) will not be accepted. We want a response to the call for public disclosure of the initial plans you have presented. This would include, but not be limited to, space allocation proposals, financial data and business plans to date. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Rebecca Pera and J. Burger,Progressive Student Organization members