BOG president on Coffman space allocation review

The University of Minnesota Board of Governors hosted an open forum March 29 to gather feedback on a proposed reconfiguration of Coffman UnionâÄôs second floor student group space.

The process to review space allocation began last spring after Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart asked the BOG to address two questions:

First, how might the BOG address serving more student groups in the existing space?

Second, what are the current and historical practices and rationale concerning groups that have been provided space in Coffman on a continuous basis?

In addition, there have been multiple issues about the number of spaces available and how they have been distributed since the 1930s.

Since the forum, there have been a few columns written with some misinformation I would like to respond to and clarify.

First, the proposal is still under review. No decisions have been made, and we continue to listen to ideas and suggestions as we develop a final recommendation.

Second, in his guest column in the March 31 Minnesota Daily, “Experience and boldness needed in times of crisis,” Minnesota Student Association presidential candidate Thomas Trehus said it was important for groups like those that use CoffmanâÄôs cultural centers to understand that MSA can fight for them.

I donâÄôt want this to be a fight. I want to work with MSA and all the groups on the second floor of Coffman to create a design that provides space that continues to support the cultural centers.

Trehus also suggested a possible solution would be “to relocate the âÄòCampus Club.âÄô” This is not a viable option.

The Campus Club paid for the top three floors of Coffman when the building was built in 1940 and for the build-out of their current space. Also, they pay all of the $500,000 in annual expenses related to their space.

Additionally, it is not within BOG purview to recommend moving the Campus Club to another location.

MSA presidential candidate Lizzy Shay and her running mate Colin Burke also addressed the issue in their guest column in the March 31 Daily, “Why this yearâÄôs election matters.”

They said, “If current proposals are adopted, the majority of cultural groups, including the Black Student Union, Muslim Student Association, the Queer Student Cultural Center and many others, will lose their space.”

These groups will not lose their space with the recommendation the BOG is in the process of developing. In fact, we would like all of the groups on the second floor to be part of the redesign.

Shay and Burke also called the review a “misguided attack on cultural centers” and stated they have been working with student groups for six months on the issue.

The review was not meant as an attack, and IâÄôve done my best to openly and respectfully guide the BOG through the process. WeâÄôve been open to all feedback and provided many forums to facilitate communication. Also, their guest column was the first time IâÄôve heard ShayâÄôs or BurkeâÄôs opinion on the issue, and IâÄôve led the review since it began last spring.

I value their feedback, as with that of MSAâÄôs, and would like to work with them and every other student group to reach a long-term, student-developed solution for CoffmanâÄôs second floor. However, I would like suggestions to come from a true interest and care for what happens and not because an election is around the corner.

Finally, I would like to clarify that the BOG is only able to influence allocation of space in our facilities. We are committed to passing on the message to the University that more on-campus space is needed for student groups, but unfortunately we only have power to recommend.

I see the value of the community on the second floor and what it provides to the University. My goal is to preserve and enhance that.

However, I think we need to provide space and services for more student groups.

Space allocation has been an issue in Coffman for more than 75 years; the number of student groups is at an all-time high and a long-term solution must be developed.