Groups try to branch out

Student groups on Coffman’s second floor want to expand their reach.

Hailey Colwell

With new office spaces after this summer’s redesign, student groups and cultural centers housed on Coffman Union’s second floor often use the building as an accessible space for events.

But some group members say they’re getting a little too comfortable in Coffman and want to expand their group into the larger University of Minnesota community by hosting more events outside the student union.

“We have this huge campus, and we only do stuff in Coffman,” said Satiah Monu, Black Student Union community development chair.

Many groups that were allocated space on Coffman’s second floor hold most of their events in Coffman Theater, the Great Hall or outdoor areas surrounding the building.

Students are familiar with the area around Coffman, Monu said, which helps draw them to group events.

“People know where to go,” she said.

Muslim Students Association adviser Azhar Abdusebur said holding events in different places can help introduce students to new spaces on campus and inform them about things they may not otherwise know about — like free ice skating at Mariucci Arena, which the Al-Madinah Cultural Center has used as a group event.

“Once you show people that there’s other things out there,” he said, “then they’ll be more aware.”

But while some groups are looking to expand to different areas of campus, it can be easier to stick to Coffman.

Minnesota International Student Association President Amar Husain said MISA normally hosts its smaller events in its office on the southwest corner of Coffman’s second floor.

“It’s easier,” he said. “We don’t have to pay for our own space.”

Transportation costs prevent the group from holding events off campus, he said.

In the past, Al-Madinah stayed on Coffman’s second floor or the surrounding area for its events because it guaranteed high attendance and required less logistical planning, group president Adnan Khan said.

“You get kind of stuck in your room,” he said, “and it’s easy, as opposed to having to book something [and] move all of your equipment to another room.”

However, the group is now trying to expand to other areas on campus because different venues can better “complement” different types of events the group holds, Khan said.

The BSU is also expanding out of Coffman, aiming to hold more events on the St. Paul campus, Monu said — an effort it hasn’t made in the past.

MISA members want to find a new space for the group’s popular Feast of Nations event next year, but Husain said they’re struggling to find an appropriate alternative venue.

Coffman’s Great Hall puts space constraints on the event, he said, but there aren’t many better options.

The group will ask Northrop Memorial Auditorium officials  about using the space for the Feast of Nations when the auditorium reopens in spring 2014, but the formal theater setting wouldn’t have the same feel as Coffman, Husain said.

“Every club struggles with trying to improve and expand their event, and then still [deal] with the spaces that are available to us,” he said. “It’s really a balancing act.”