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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Opinion: Demolish the St. Paul Student Center

The outdated campus needs some serious renovations.
Image by Wejdan al Balushi
Refreshing the look of the student center will benefit the campus environment.

One thing I’ve always admired about the University of Minnesota is the beautiful campus architecture and the uplifting energy it brings to students and faculty: I always thought East Bank campus looked like a place straight out of a movie set.

When assembling my spring semester schedule, I realized I had to take a class on the faraway land known as the St. Paul campus — a campus I had never explored.

While it is a beloved place to many, I was rather disappointed by the environment the various buildings created when I attended my first day of class for the spring semester.

It felt like I’d stepped into a different decade, some of the buildings teleporting me all the way back to the 1970s.

The student center’s layout on this campus struck me as particularly dull and odd. 

What should be a relatively lively student hangout spot was rather dark, depressing and empty.

There had been brief discussions in 2023 about the redesign of the student center on the St. Paul campus, but the official plan for the project is up in the air.

It is important to consider the constantly changing needs of students and how older buildings like the student center may not properly serve today’s generation of students anymore.

Julia Stuenkel, a second-year student, said she is on the St. Paul campus for all her classes and her jobs at a lab and greenhouse.

“I enjoy being on the St. Paul campus because it’s quiet and I think there are some really cool places to study,” Stuenkel said.

Stuenkel said that while the peacefulness of St. Paul campus is appreciable, she prefers being on East Bank because she’s more comfortable in fast-paced city environments. She said she goes to the student center regularly for food but rarely studies in the building due to its depressing aura and lack of natural lighting. 

“I don’t like the student center,” Stuenkel said. “I find it fairly outdated. I find it dark and kind of depressing.”

One symbol of the student center’s outdatedness is the prehistoric phone booth that remains in the building, according to Stuenkel.

Stuenkel said that when she gives tours to prospective CFANS students, she is embarrassed to present the student center to them and pretend it doesn’t have an off-putting energy. The multi-level layout of the student center makes it very difficult to navigate and makes most of the center feel closed off and hidden from students and visitors.

Elizabeth Erwin, a fourth-year student, said she enjoys the St. Paul campus’ natural environment but thinks renovations to the student center and other buildings are necessary.

Erwin said demolishing the student center would benefit the campus environment because it is so outdated and lacks proper study spaces.

Creating a brand new student center would provide a revitalized space with a more convenient layout.

Stuenkel said demolishing the current space and rebuilding a modernized student center would likely attract more students to live on the St. Paul campus and to use the space.

“Being able to redo it would not only encourage students who might be curious to live on St. Paul, which has always been an issue,” Stuenkel said. “It also would serve both commuters and students who end up spending a lot of time on St. Paul who don’t have a home base if they’re not living on the St. Paul campus.”

Both Erwin and Stuenkel said Coffman Union on East Bank campus is a great example of a student center and they would like to see certain aspects of Coffman mimicked in a potential new St. Paul student center.

Stuenkel said if a new student center is built, she wants the overall space to feel more open and bright, so she can proudly show the campus to prospective students and use the space to study more frequently.

Erwin said the student center should be renovated to bring a new sense of energy and openness to the campus, but it’s important to her that the architectural style remains true to the original buildings.

“I hope if a demolition of the student center does occur, they stay true to the architectural designs that are already there,” Erwin said.

Having spent time on St. Paul campus this past semester, I learned a lot about what learning environments work best for me. 

St. Paul campus and I just don’t mesh and this could change following the hypothetical redesign of a few of the campus buildings.

Until then, I’ll stay on East Bank.

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  • Mecca
    Apr 28, 2024 at 2:21 pm

    This reads as someone complaining about the St. Paul Student Center because they had to take a required course on St. Paul campus for the first time. The building is well maintained and has a lot of hangout/study spots that are more comfortable than the seating in some of the newer buildings, such as Bruininks. If anything the only flaw is that students don’t use it enough, and that’s because there are even better outdoor study spots, granted the nice weather is just coming in. The University could stand to use their money for something better, like putting money into different studies’ departments that are lacking in funding.