Candidate advocates saving Student Union

By Amanda Hunt

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Contrary to popular opinion, the fourth candidate for UA Student Union director thinks the building only needs to be remodeled not rebuilt.

Sam Wheeler, departmental director of Campus Unions Activities and Food Service at Northern Arizona University, appeared as the final of four candidates competing for the University of Arizona Student Union director position yesterday.

Wheeler shared some of his suggestions for the Union at several interview forums with staff, administration and student leaders. The improvements include possibly adding outside decks, a glass elevator, many more windows and nice furniture. He took a four-hour tour of the building Sunday.

"There are a lot of good things in this facility ... a lot to save," Wheeler said. He thinks it is more efficient to retain some the stronger features of the building and remodel in the existing space.

"We don't need to destroy the good, the bad and the ugly," he said.

The administration has plans for rebuilding the union in various stages.

Wheeler competes with Daniel Adams, from West Virginia University; Edward Slazinik from the University of Illinois; and Bruce Zimmerman, from the University of Southern Colorado for the position. About 50 candidates applied for the job, which has been open since Bob Ernstein resigned in March 1994.

The other candidates had interviews earlier this month.

Qualifications for the job include experience with food service, privatization, renovation and remodeling, budgeting, staff management and working with students. At least seven years experience at a university union and a master's degree in business administration or food service is preferred for the position.

Wheeler has worked as departmental director at NAU since 1982. He was also

the director of student activities and advisor to associated students at NAU from 1979 to 1982 and coordinator of veteran's services from 1977 to 1979.

He has a master's degree in higher education administration from NAU.

Wheeler has overseen several remodeling projects in NAU's union and says that the UA Union "would be a challenge." With some changes, he says, "It could be the model union of the country."

"Personally, I don't like the idea of rebuilding," said Gaurav Parnami, ASUA special events director. Parnami liked Wheeler's suggestions for remodeling.

Wheeler said there is "too much vending" in the building and not enough attention devoted to academics and student activities. The design of the food facilities now, he says, do not appeal to "the mall generation." This would be a place where students can get the kind of food they want and easily meet in a central area to eat with a group of friends.

Wheeler also suggested having a base meal ticket at a minimum cost of $375 to draw more business in the union. "It's not a recipe that works for every customer ... but increasing traffic is a must," he said. He said he does not think that privatization of Union restaurants is necessary.

Melanie Ayers, a Graduate and Professional Student Committee representative who attended the student leaders forum, said she did not like Wheeler's ideas for the meal plan. "Privatization is a good thing," she said.

Wheeler emphasized the importance of creating more lounge space and creating "a social environment" in the Union. He wants staff and students to feel that they are "a part of the university," an area he says needs improvement.

Ayers agreed with his philosophy. "The Student Union is more than just a place to eat ... it is a student center," she said.

Wheeler criticized the design of the union because it does not utilize the outside, especially in a mild climate like Tucson.

"You need to feel the sunshine," he said.

Wheeler complemented the union ballrooms, Sam's Place and Gallagher Theatre, and said they need to be updated and remodeled slightly.

"The Student Union leaves a lasting impression on everyone," Wheeler said.

Read Next Article