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  March 29, 2004

Phase I Of Student Union
To Be Complete In August

Concerns about the location of the cultural centers in the renovated Student Union have been resolved through a revised plan that was approved by The Board of Trustees last Tuesday.

The trustees approved a request from Provost John D. Petersen for an additional $2 million to complete the $45 million project, which was delayed when students, primarily representing the cultural centers, raised concerns regarding the areas designated for them. Concerns were expressed that the low ceilings and exposed pipes on the second and third floors of the building might not be appropriate for the centers and the community events they regularly sponsor.

Last semester, Petersen and Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, vice president and chief operating officer, convened the Student Union Project Advisory Committee, comprised of students and staff who will occupy the building. In its report, the committee suggested that space on the second and third floors of the first phase of the renovations, originally intended to house all the cultural centers, instead be reconfigured into office space for the Department of Campus Activities and student organizations.

The renovated section of the building will house the International Center, the Women's Center, and the Rainbow Center. The planned location of the African American Cultural Center will now be on the fourth floor of the renovated building. The Asian American and Puerto Rican/ Latin American cultural centers will be housed in Phase II.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome," said Ronald Taylor, vice provost for multicultural and international affairs. "Some saw this as a test of our commitment. The Trustees approved our diversity plan two years ago, and part of that plan was to create a more welcoming environment for students of color.

"This was an opportunity to do that, and respond to the concerns of the cultural centers as well," he added.

Petersen said, "A positive outcome to this situation was dependent on bringing together the stakeholders and working toward a compromise. This solution allows us to meet the needs of all students while also meeting institutional objectives."

John Saddlemire, interim vice president for student affairs and co-chair of the advisory committee with Taylor, said students did have a voice in designing the new Student Union in the late 1990's, but it is important to listen to current students as well.

He said the redesign of the second and third floors in the first phase "fits the program needs of the constituents that will be housed there."

The renovation of the Student Union is taking place in two phases.

Work is expected to be completed on Phase I in August, when the 500-seat movie theater, offices for a number of student organizations and student affairs personnel, and a reconfigured Nutmeg Grille will open.

Phase II involves replacing and expanding the southern end of the building with a new, three-story extension that will include two of the cultural centers, a food court, a multi-purpose room, and retail space. This phase of the project, scheduled to begin later this spring, is projected to open in fall 2005.

Student organizations and staff in Student Union offices that are currently occupied will relocate to temporary space May 10, to allow construction workers to raze that section of the building.