Student Union overhaul should be a priority

The Student Union is the one building that almost every student goes through sometime during the week. More than 14,000 people eat at the Student Union restaurants per day. It is a central meeting place for students and clubs. If there is one building that represents the university, it is the Student Union. Yet, the Student Union is falling apart and the administration has being unwilling to invest money in it.

Last year, Student Affairs Vice President Saundra Lawson Taylor created an ad hoc committee of students, faculty and administrators to examine the status of the Student Union. After a five-month study, the Student Union Task Force issued a scathing report. First, the committee found that the Student Union building "while not in compliance with prevailing fire codes, is not in violation since the facility was built prior to enactment of these codes."

The Student Union lacks a Class A sprinkler/alarm system and has "inadequate ventilation and sprinkler systems to control grease fires." The report found that lack of funding "has created a facility that is in a state of disrepair" with "buckets to collect dripping water, mismatched tiles on the floor (and) new wallboard that creates a facade hiding structural damage." The committee recommended that the administration authorize $750,000 to be used to meet present fire safety standards, support privitizing part of the Student Union and start more long-range planning.

Well, it's six months later and there are even more buckets dotting the Student Union whenever it rains. And now the administration plans for the construction of the $16.9 million UA Integrated Instruction Facility.

The Regents' report says, "The Integrated Instructional Facility would permit the University to provide a site, both visibly symbolic and physically convenient, for the delivery of a first-year core curriculum for new students and for the support of that curriculum."

Whoa, wait a minute. Getting a little ahead of ourselves, aren't we? The "core curriculum class" proposal has not been approved by the Faculty Senate or subjected to widespread student scrunity. Right now there are more holes in the proposal than in the Student Union roof (and that's a lot). Before the administration even considers investing $16.9 million in an university college, they should find out if they have the necessary and willing faculty to teach the core curriculum classes.

We know the funding for the Student Union and the IIF Building come from two different sources, but we are amazed at the speed in which the administration has acted. Within two months, the administration has been able to get the Arizona Board of Regents to approve a $16.9 million proposal. Yet, the Student Union has been deteriorating for years and only patchwork solutions have been offered.

In the Student Union report, one task force member wrote, "If one compares the Alumni building with the Student Union building, the implication is that the UofA is interested in soliciting contributions from wealthy alums but is not willing to spend on its current student body while it is here. This dichotomy does not bode well for the future."

In the administration's actions on the IIF Building and the Student Union Building, we see another example of dichotomy this time between the administration's pet project and an unglamorous project which needs to be addressed. The administration should address problems with standing buildings, before even thinking of building new ones.

In an editorial last April, we asked, "Will administrators listen to the suggestions made by the Student Union Task Force? Will the administration . finally spend the money to improve the fire safety system?"

We're still waiting to find out.

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