Student centers unite under same director

by Nichol Nelson

Coffman Union and the St. Paul Student Center will soon have more in common than basement bowling alleys.
Effective July 1, the two unions, along with the West Bank Union, will fall under the leadership of one director. Maggie Towle, Coffman’s current director, will take the helm of a new organizational structure designed to streamline union staffing.
The move from nine to six senior staff members will save about $180,000 in salary costs, Towle said. That figure is contingent on possible salary increases for current staff.
The new plan did not require firing anyone, Towle stressed. All three of the positions cut — St. Paul Student Center director, assistant director of finance and facilities manager — were vacant. The St. Paul Student Center has been operating without a director since Charles Rausch retired last September.
McKinley Boston, vice president of student development and athletics, appointed a task force last fall to find ways to make union staffing more cost effective. Boston said he was pleased with the outcome of the committee and hopes the savings can be passed back to students.
The committee was comprised of staff and students from both unions. Jorg Rivera, president of Coffman’s Board of Governors, said while there was widespread support for the cuts, representatives from St. Paul expressed concerns about losing their identity.
“For a long time, there was competition between the two facilities even though the goal was the same: to serve students,” Rivera said.
Towle said she will work hard to ensure neither of the unions lose their uniqueness. She said she will not change the main features of the St. Paul Student Center, such as the Center for Outdoor Adventure.
“Until you spend time on the St. Paul campus, you don’t understand the culture, which is wonderful,” Towle said.
Union staffers will have plenty of time to imbibe that culture during Coffman’s renovation. All of the senior staff from Coffman will relocate to St. Paul during the project. Towle said the move will allow both staffs to learn from each other.
Eventually the two unions will share a single fees request, Towle said. She added that next year will be a transition, but she hopes to implement the single-budget plan in two years.