The Student Union of the future

Students and faculty discuss potential changes, developments to SU

tristan-reynolds

In 1984, UB built the Student Activities Center, now called the Student Union.

Now, 34 years later, UB is looking to update the most-populated building for students on campus.

SA leaders, club officials and other UB community members gathered on Wednesday in SU Room 250 to discuss plans to move the union into the current century.

Employees with Brailsford & Dunlavey, Inc. an outside development advisory firm, and UB Architectural Resources said a plan for a new Student Union is in the works. The groups will “conduct a comprehensive assessment of existing conditions and market dynamics, and provide detailed recommendations for future investment,” according to the Student Union Master Plan.

The groups plan to look at SU, along with South Campus’ Harriman and Diefendorf Halls. On Wednesday, B&D employees, along with UB Architectural Resources, asked students for feedback on the current Student Union. Though their plan encompasses both campuses, most students complained about the design of North Campus’ Student Union on Wednesday.

Tristan Reynolds, a senior mechanical engineering major and SU student manager, said SU is not a student-centric area, “if at all.”

“[SU] has a lot of office space that could be utilized as student space. There is not a large space for students to throw events. We don’t have a large ballroom like in Harriman Hall,” Reynolds said.

“The best thing for a large social event is the Flag Room, but it’s open to anyone who wants to walk around there. There is a lot of open space that is not being used.”

Reynolds said he feels SU does not service students in the way it should service them.

“It doesn’t feel like [SU] is focused on student events,” Reynolds said. “The union should be focused on [a place] where students can have events and a place to be with other students. Right now, it feels like a space that students can use, if somebody lets them.”

Gianna Razza, a senior mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering and math major, is president of Outdoor Adventure Club. Razza said she wants her club to have more storage space in the future.

OAC stores its equipment in the Outdoor Pursuits office, she said, because the club isn’t able to store equipment in its office.

“We have over 40 sleeping bags and pads, over 40 tents, backpacks, snowshoes and more,” Razza said. “It’s not organized and we don’t have room for everything our club has.” 

Razza said other college’s outdoor clubs have nice storehouses, but OAC has “two tiny storage closets,” in addition to using Outdoor Pursuits space.

“The storage cart we use [in SU] hauls equipment but doesn’t even fit in the elevators,” Razza said. “We found that out the hard way when we loaded all of our sleeping bags on the cart and couldn’t fit in the elevator. We had to just throw them off the cart into the elevator and load them again downstairs.”

Other club leaders said the SU Theater is “unfriendly” for students. They also claimed SU lacks spaces for dancing and complained about having to pay for the setup and breakdown of dividing walls for events in SU Room 145.

A number of other club leaders said they have issues with playing music during SU events. Students also questioned why some UB organizations, such as Blackstone Launchpad and orientation services, have offices in SU.

B&D employees and UB Architectural Resources staff members then asked students about cell phone reception in SU. Students said reception has been good, but others, such as SA Vice President Anyssa Evelyn, said more places should be available for students to charge their electronics.

“A lot of times students are eating in SU and have no place to charge their phone or laptop,” Evelyn said. “I think that is a problem that is often overlooked and an important aspect [of the union.]”

This meeting was the first kickoff event for the new Student Union Master Plan. In the spring semester, UB will administer an electronic survey which will tie in the Student Union Master Plan. 

Wednesday’s meeting featured roughly 25 people but the SU planning groups said they hope the survey reaches a wider audience.

Kirsten Dean is the features editor and can be reached at kirsten.dean@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @KirstenUBSpec.