The state of the union is half empty

You’d think the $72 million renovation of our student union would change things.

Mat Koehler

The task of having fun on campus has become a real challenge lately. I, for one, could entertain myself for hours with a yo-yo and an action figure, but my friends seem to have more involved social necessities.

But there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Local bars seem to contain more frat-party seconds every day, which might explain why their bathrooms have taken on a “just go anywhere” policy. Campus coffeehouses always ruin what little fun they spark by closing early ” they get you wired, then kick you out. And unless you count the time my friends dressed up like community advisers and confiscated booze, the dorms also lack creative liveliness.

You’d think the $72 million renovation of our student union would change things, but just as the fresh banana blackens, so our union has passed its prime. Sure, it seemed great when it reopened in 2003, but two key factors have spoiled our campus centerpiece: homeless people, and to a lesser extent, the parking/accessibility situation.

Have you ever gone to one of the free movies at the Coffman Union theater? Aside from the horrific sound system and projector quality, one has to put up with homeless people ” both their antics and their smell.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the homeless. I’ll be one of them someday. But these scraggly drifters take advantage of more free student union activities than the suck-up members of the Residence Hall Association. This results in the permanent aroma of body odor in most areas of Coffman Union. It’s similar to “that freshman smell,” but it incorporates more hot garbage into its bouquet while sacrificing the stench of overused flip-flop sandals.

The homeless also are notoriously loud-mouthed, and there was no better example of this than when I went to see a music show at Coffman’s theater and a greasy man in the back corner repeatedly yelled “Oh, you naughty boy!” at one of the performers. It was funny the first couple of times, but then the words took a harsher form, accentuated by the disappearance of the man’s hands under his parka.

Ignoring the constant nuisance of homeless people, Coffman is just not very accessible to those who live off campus. Parking is costly, and the buses coming from the northeast take you only as far as Dinkytown. Since it’s cold outside, people like me are less willing to walk from place to place. I must concede, however, that I have these same issues with class accessibility ” and this is why I never go.

I suggest that Coffman and its “Gophers After Dark” program revamp their marketing strategies. A new “Homeless-free” campaign wouldn’t hurt, and maybe a free parking incentive could diversify attendees.

Oh, and change that stupid name. “Gophers After Dark?” That’s what one of the homeless guys in the commuter lounge keeps mumbling after pointing to his groin.

Mat Koehler welcomes comments at [email protected]