Student group space is hard to find

MSA passed a resolution Tuesday that advocates for designated areas.

Sarah Connor

Instead of safely locking up the fruits of their labor in campus buildings, members of the engineering student group Tesla Works store their projects in members’ garages and basements.

“We have struggled for the entire duration of our group to find storage space,” said Trevor Laughlin, the group’s president. “Most of the projects that were being built or were finished, we don’t have any place to put them.”

Amid ongoing construction and remodeling of University buildings, many student groups are without sufficient space on campus.

To help student groups like Tesla Works find temporary homes when displaced by construction, the Minnesota Student Association passed a resolution Tuesday to advocate for a new school policy that would designate specific spaces on campus for groups.

“There’s a big problem that’s been happening lately — mostly because of building construction — where people who have traditionally had space have been thrown out without any kind of recourse,” said Chase Taylor, MSA officer and author of the resolution, at Tuesday’s meeting. “This has been an ongoing problem without any kind of University policy to address how things are dealt with.”

Student senator Mitchell Fuller said although the University allocated funds for student groups’ projects and materials in the form of student services fees this fall, extra funding doesn’t fix a need for more space.

“It’s curious to wonder why the University is supporting these student groups more than they ever have before monetarily, but they’re not even providing them space to work,” Mitchell said at the meeting.

Taylor said he primarily reached out to groups that meet in College of Science and Engineering buildings, such as the Tate Lab of Physics and Amundson Hall, because many of those sites are under construction.

He said MSA has the support of 14 student groups that want a policy to address the issue.

One of those 14 groups, the Society of Automotive Engineers, has struggled to build its competitive racecar without the necessary amount of space, said the group’s president, Michael Tormoen.

“Last year, we had a lab for tuning our engine, office space, workspace and space for welding and materials storage,” he said. “Right now, we only have workspace, which is really small and cramped for three cars.”

Tormoen said the lack of space has also made it harder to grow the group.

He said more students joined the group this fall than in past years, but some members quit because there’s
nowhere for them to work.

“We can’t necessarily put [everyone] on projects right away, because the work space is completely full and no one has room,” Tormoen said.

With the resolution, MSA will also advocate for the construction of more on-campus spaces for student groups to meet.

Mimicking the existing designated space that’s on the second floor of Coffman Union is one proposed solution, Fuller said.

“It has been done before, so this is a precedent of sorts for a type of way that we could go about allotting more space for these groups,” he said.

Fuller said MSA aims to prevent campus construction, which is ongoing, from getting in the way of the benefits that come with joining a student group.

“The more areas there are for student groups, the easier it is for all of us to do the work that we are all doing in our independent organizations, and the more impact we can all have on campus,” Taylor said.