Delay in union renovations creates inconveniences, disappointments

by Erin Madsen

The delay of Coffman Union’s renovation is leaving relocated student groups feeling surprised and disappointed.
“I thought (University officials) had everything set,” said Lola Okanla, a member of the Africana Student Cultural Center. “It sounded like the building and renovation were to happen immediately.”
The Twin Cities Student Union Board of Governors announced at a forum Tuesday that a permanent home in a revamped union has been delayed indefinitely, leaving the student groups in the basement of 720 Washington Ave. for at least an additional six months.
Some students were not surprised by the news from the renovation officials.
Minnesota International Student Association member Kari Schirm said the delays come without surprise. “Anytime you drive or walk past there, you don’t see anything being done,” Schirm said.
The six-month delay adds to student groups’ frustrations with the inaccessibility of their basement location.
Inconvenience for University students is a main concern for the groups, who have seen the number of student visits drop in the last year.
“Interaction with students is a lot less now,” said MISA member Marieke VanDijk.
VanDijk added that even when students find the offices, getting around is a challenge. “It’s a maze down here,” she said.
According to Twin Cities Student Union President Lance Patrick the current temporary offices were decided upon because of the “great chance to work with Stadium Village.”
The student centers’ current location was rented by the University from a private landlord.
A three-year lease was created with an option for an extension of up to five years, providing “a safety net in case (the Coffman renovation) was late,” explained Maggie Towle, department director for Coffman Union.
At the forum Tuesday, the student centers were assured that if rent increases in the next two years, the difference will be paid by Twin Cities Student Unions.
As for the delays at Coffman, Schirm said, “It’s one of the trade-offs in going to a big school. There is a lot of red tape.”