Coffman Union closes for two-year overhaul

Raiza Beltran

The last items were bought from the convenience store and the worn pieces of furniture were tagged and wheeled out of Coffman Union on Monday, leaving many students feeling a sense of homelessness.
Until the $55 million, two-year renovation is finished, students and staff members will have to find another place to relax and hang out.
“It’s my home away from home,” said Thoung Tu, an Institute of Technology sophomore. “I’m going to miss it.”
More than 25 student organizations and cultural centers are housed in the 59-year-old union, and at least 20 services are offered for students.
Built in 1940 as a coed student center, Coffman Union underwent a renovation in 1970 after the growing student body exceeded the union’s 14,000 student capacity.
Ebani Butler and Sarah Boardman, both College of Liberal Arts freshmen, said they are worried about not having a place to rest and meet others.
“It’s a good place for commuters. It’s someplace to be every day,” Butler said.
As Boardman looked around the Coffman basement with several student groups chatting, she agreed with Butler’s point about the community building.
“Without Coffman, I would’ve never met any of these people,” she said.
Union regulars said they will miss the convenience of having several student service offices in one place. “Everything you need you can get done here,” Butler said.
The union’s student services, including the U Card office, Campus Involvement Center and the post office will move to other campus locations.
The student organizations and cultural centers will share a 15,000-square-foot location in the basement level of 720 Washington Ave. S.E., between McDonald’s and Orange Julius.
Some student leaders have voiced concerns about losing members and visibility.
“Distance wise, our members will have to go out of their way to get to the cultural center,” said Keo Vilaysone, an Asian American Student Cultural Center board member and a CLA sophomore.
Despite mixed feelings about the move, Matt Strickler, the University Young Women program coordinator, said he is looking forward to having the cultural centers and student organizations in one area.
“Hopefully, this will facilitate coalition work with other student groups and centers,” he said.
Coffman Union administrators said they are trying to make the change for the students as easy as possible.
“We will continue Coffman’s events throughout the campuses and provide avenues for people to meet,” said Karen Lyons, a Coffman Union administrator.
The union is expected to open in fall 2001 with additional quiet, social study lounges, a 24-hour computer lab, a coffee-shop bookstore and a larger food court.

Raiza Beltran welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3221.