Groups return to remodeled Coffman

Selected groups are moving back into remodeled office spaces.

Sophomore Kevin Ward, left, and sophomore Emily Myers, right, take a break from their Welcome Week duties Thursday morning in the new office for the student group Commuter Connection, located in Coffman Union. Their student group regained an office on Coffman's second floor after the summer renovation.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Sophomore Kevin Ward, left, and sophomore Emily Myers, right, take a break from their Welcome Week duties Thursday morning in the new office for the student group Commuter Connection, located in Coffman Union. Their student group regained an office on Coffman’s second floor after the summer renovation.

Hailey Colwell

After a summer-long remodeling project, 12 selected student groups and cultural centers moved back into Coffman Union’s second floor last week.

The remodel began in 2010 to address the long-term problem of limited space for student groups, and cost about $2.5 million. The project has stirred controversy since redesign talks began among the more than 18 displaced groups that previously held office space in Coffman.

An advisory council chose nine cultural centers, Commuter Connection, the Minnesota Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly to occupy the spaces through spring 2015. The remaining 20 percent of the floor is allocated as multi-use space for groups without a designated office.

Groups will be evaluated every two years on outreach efforts and use of space to determine if they can keep their semi-permanent offices, Student Unions and Activities Director Maggie Towle said. Repositionable office walls and rolling chairs in the spaces will help give Coffman’s second floor the flexibility to evolve with groups’ needs, she said.

“We know that this floor will change over time and it will be up to the students,” Towle said.

Though the floor’s multi-use area is meant to accommodate groups without space, SUA officials are encouraging groups with offices to share their spaces with smaller groups of similar interests, Towle said.

The group Students Today Leaders Forever had to vacate its office in May. Members used the space for meetings in the evenings but during the day it was also a comfortable refuge, said co-chair Callie Young.

“It was really nice to always have a safe space on campus,” she said.

Though STLF members voiced their opinions at Second Floor Advisory Committee meetings during the redesign process, Young said it felt like their thoughts weren’t taken into account.

The committee could have done more to include groups that never had space in Coffman, she said.

STLF will use its national office in downtown Minneapolis for storage space and will most likely hold meetings in a co-chair’s apartment or the University’s Education Sciences Building, Young said.

It’s unlikely that the group will use the Coffman second floor’s multi-use area for anything other than its storage lockers, Young said, because it doesn’t want to reserve meeting space.

A rearrangement

The new floor layout has caused some groups to rethink their recruitment strategies.

The Minnesota International Student Association used to have a centrally located office on Coffman’s second floor but was relocated to a back corner after the remodel.

Because the group’s office will now see less foot traffic, it’ll be a challenge to get as many new people coming through their doors, said group officer Grace Doherty.

Commuter Connection previously had a corner office and is now located near the multi-use area in the middle of the floor.

Group officer Kevin Ward said having a more accessible office will make it easier for students to use their resources and recruit new members.

 New glass office fronts will help with recruitment, said group officer Emily Myers, because they make the space feel less closed off to passersby.