Survey: Students happy with Coffman

Lacey Crisp

The data is in, and students seem to be happy with postrenovation Coffman Union.

The Office of Student Affairs conducts a survey every five or six years to determine what changes it would like to make to the union.

According to the survey, 90 percent of students in 2004 said the union contributes to a sense of community on campus, compared to 77 percent in 1998.

Last spring, Coffman Union officials surveyed 1,000 students, making sure to have a sample that was representative of minorities and both genders as the student population. They had a 61 percent response rate.

Om Padhye, president of the Board of Governors, said the main goal was to create a union that students want and will use.

“We try to make the union the center of the University,” Padhye said.

Karen Lyons, assistant marketing director of Twin Cities Student Unions, said it is a great tool to be able to compare prerenovation and postrenovation surveys.

“In 1998, we realized that the union wasn’t serving students’ needs, so we renovated it,” Lyons said. “We wanted to wait to survey students again until they had a chance to see and use the facilities.”

The survey was kept mostly the same from 1998 to 2004.

The total cost of the renovation was approximately $71.5 million, Lyons said.

Before the renovation, Coffman Union did not have air conditioning on the top floor or any national chain food stores, but it did have a movie theater, bowling alley and hair salon.

Now, the union houses a computer lab and banks but has less space for student groups.

“We want to provide students a home away from home, and a place to feel a part of the University,” Lyons said.

More students are going to the union than before the renovations, which, Lyons said, might be because the bookstore is now located there. According to the survey, almost 82 percent of students visited the union in 1998, and approximately 94 percent of students in 2004 had been there.

Because of contractor problems, the renovations were delayed and expenses increased, Lyons said.

“It took a little more money and a little more time than what we’d expected, but I think it is worth it in the end,” Lyons said.

Coffman Union just ended its semesterlong campaign, “Spotted at the Student Unions,” which used events to get students there.

Prizes were given away all semester, and grand prizes were tuition reimbursements to a few lucky students.

“We like to do things like that just to say ‘Thank you’ to the students,” Lyons said.

First year student Natalie Hanson said she goes to the union a few times a week.

“I come in between classes to do homework and to catch up on sleep,” Hanson said.

Although Abby Musfeldt lives on campus, she said, the union is a “great” place to go when she has a short break between classes.

“It’s quiet, and I like the chairs,” Musfeldt said. “Plus, there’s a Starbucks here.”

Almost 45 percent of students said the union saved them time, and 36 percent said it helped reduce stress.

Musfeldt said she also attends Gophers After Dark programs, and many of the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council films. The Gophers After Dark program is set up as a nonalcoholic alternative to students for activities on the weekends. Most events are free.