U freezes Coffman space to collect more feedback

The Board of Governors needs more information to decide space allocation.

by Laura Sievert

Seeking more time to collect feedback on space allocation in Coffman Union, the University of Minnesota Board of Governors recommended freezing second-floor space allocation Thursday.

A committee of four board members has been responsible for determining the most beneficial use of second-floor space in Coffman Union. It decided that more information from a greater number of sources was necessary before a decision could be reached.

Sumit Bhatnagar, the policy committee chairman, said the board “didnâÄôt want to rush into a decision.”

A memo from the policy committee to the board said, “The BOG cannot make a responsible and sound decision based on the current information and feedback they have received. Due to the magnitude and possible impact of the recommendations, the BOG must take more time and gather input from more of the interested parties.”

The memo recommended creating an ad-hoc committee of seven to 10 people who would be affected by the space allocation in Coffman Union.

According to board president Joel Livingood, this committee would be chaired by a board member and include students from the culture centers currently housed on the second floor, members of student groups vying for space on the second floor and members of the Student Services Fees

“This will be a community-wide, campus-wide committee to determine how to best use the space to benefit all groups,” Livingood said.

The board had intended to decide how the space should be used after the surveys it distributed in early October and the open forums it hosted last week. The board planned to vote on Nov. 11 and make a recommendation to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart, but Livingood said a delay of that is decision is likely.

He said he is confident the board will vote to freeze the process and will design a timeline for the extended allocation process.

He hopes this process will be completed by mid-spring semester but admits it may last until next fall. He said it is a much bigger issue than he had anticipated and that two months was not adequate timing to make a decision that will have such broad impact.

Lorna Her Many Horses, the center director of the American Indian Student Cultural Center, is glad the board has decided to freeze its decision.

“If they had made a decision without adequately consulting the culture center it would not be fair to us as culture centers or as students,” she said.

Bhatnagar said he hopes that by allowing a smaller group to make its recommendations it will be able to explain exactly what is happening, rather than trying to explain to every student group.

“[The culture centers] think we are trying to take their office space, which we are not,” he said.