Coffman Union offers services for students

Benjamin Ganje

Coffman Union is the stately building located on the south side of the Mall. Its towering pillars face proudly toward its elder cousin, Northrop Auditorium, and the mighty Mississippi River flows southward on its left.
On the inside, Coffman Union is home to more services and programs for students than any other location on campus. But the outside might be all there is to see unless new students visit the facility before November.
“This is a place where you can see people, meet people,” said Bill Vadino, assistant director for Coffman Union. “There are a lot of events going on.”
The union, as it stands now, is an eight-floor structure with its two main entrances facing the Mall. The ground floor is a combination of information center, lounge and eatery.
In the basement is a post office, convenience store and U Card Office.
Many campus student organizations have made the student union their home. There is a wide variety of student-specific services as well. These include the International Study and Travel Center, the Campus Involvement Center and the Diversity Institute.
Students come to Coffman for many reasons, according to the Coffman Insider, the union’s newsletter. Of students surveyed, most came to use the bathrooms.
The comfort of knowing that Coffman provides numerous services will be short-lived, however, because those services will be scattered across campus sometime this winter.
A $55 million renovation has been slated for Coffman Union. This means that its doors could be closed — and its services displaced — as soon as November.
The proposed completion date for the renovation is fall 2001. This leaves many organizations, businesses and services in need of space.
One answer to this is a temporary union located at 720 Washington Ave., between McDonald’s and Orange Julius in Stadium Village.
The new location will have a ground-level information kiosk to point visitors in the appropriate direction. The rest of the 15,000-square-foot location will be in the basement.
The temporary union will be home to student organizations, cultural centers and the U Card Office.
“We hope to have a seamless transition to our new estate,” Vadino said.
Coffman’s services and programs will let students know where they will be moving to, he said.
“During the year we average over 600 programs,” said Vadino. “Whether the building is open or closed we are going to maintain that output, not only when we have the facility, but when we don’t.”
For the fall, it will be business as usual for Coffman. Lectures, classes, film series are planned for the next couple of months. Some nationally known music attractions at Coffman to appear this fall include The Big Wu and Henry Rollins.
The University originally had two student unions, one for each gender. In the 1930s the idea to consolidate into a coed union resulted in the formation of Coffman Union.
It was built in 1940 in its current location and designed to accommodate a student body of 14,000. The initial cost was $2 million.
In 1970 the building was renovated to its current status.
Students looking for more information should call the Coffman information line at 624-INFO (4636) or visit their Web site at www.coffman.umn.edu.