Future of CMU space still uncertain

by Samantha Stark

starksa@mnstate.edu

The sound of drills, saws and hammers echo throughout the MSUM campus as construction of a renewed CMU continues.

From the beginning, renovation planners and organizers wanted the $9 million project to incorporate five pillars: the addition of daylight, a coffeehouse atmosphere, a “student involvement neighborhood,” a designated welcoming and handicap accessible entrance and social spaces.

Students can see the skeleton of the CMU “sunroom” hidden behind black-tarp fences, but they can’t see all the planning, decisions and safety changes underway this semester. 

“If a student was walking around, they would feel that there hasn’t been any work done,” said Student Senate President Sean Duckworth. “There have been a lot of changes over the summer, but not many visible changes. Mostly safety upgrades, wall work and bathroom reconstruction.”

Capitalizing on the pillars

The most visible construction of the CMU is the expansion of a “sunroom” on its southwest side. This new space will provide more daylight for students, tackling one of the main pillars for the renovation, Director of Student Union and Activities Layne Anderson said.

“The goal is to have a lot more windows and openness to get rid of the 1960s, closed-in bunker feel that the CMU currently has,” Duckworth said.

In addition, the CMU is scheduled to have large windows installed above Subs & Sweets and the C-Store during an upcoming break.

“There is still a lot of construction that will be happening throughout the semester and may be even into the spring semester,” Duckworth said. “So in comparison to last year, the biggest changes were just safety features.”

As the CMU was built in the ‘60s when they didn’t have Internet or other technological advances that MSUM now finds necessary, there was a lot of construction needed to update the CMU to safety code.

“A firewall was added, data cables were reorganized and several other safety updates were heavily needed,” Anderson said. “Students may not notice the changes, but those were all made this summer.”

The pillars addressing daylight, a coffeehouse atmosphere and a designated entrance will be achieved through the new addition of the sunroom,” Anderson said. The two remaining pillars of a student involvement neighborhood and additional social spaces will be achieved by the renovation of the old ROC space.

The repurposing of the ROC was a chance for renovation planners to create a space providing students with a “neighborhood” encouraging a student body connection. As of now, the Mosaic Center plans to hold the Women’s Center, Rainbow Dragon Center, the American Indian Research and Resource Center and the Black Student Union.

“It’s our job to show students how to appreciate all people, value differences and not just ‘tolerate’ others that are different, but truly appreciate others and their authentic self,” Anderson said.

The renovation of the ROC will include a student lounge with computers, tables and seating near the Mosaic Center and Student Senate office. The lounge is intended to provide an “open to everyone” atmosphere in hopes of driving students into the area. 

Next to the lounge will be a patio outside the Mosaic Center and Student Senate office.

“From a designer’s stand point, the porch will feel like it’s connected to the Mosaic Center and Student Senate, but the concept is to create a welcoming spot that invites students in,” Anderson said. “The porch will also provide a space where organizations inside the Mosaic Center and the Student Senate can bleed into if they need more space or want to advertise events.”

Inside the Mosaic Center and Student Senate space will be an open lounge area for the organizations.

“It won’t have any permanent walls in that collaborative space in hopes to create an open space,” Anderson added. “Then inside that will be a private space for a conference or meeting area, but it still could change a little.”

Inside the Student Senate office, there will be private areas for the president and vice president, but those plans are still susceptible to change.

The Office of Student Activities and First Year Programs will be across the hall, where The Advocate and Dragon Radio were previously located.

“All of these services and offices are located in one space within the CMU so you don’t have to hunt them down throughout the building or all over campus,” Duckworth said.

Student issues and concerns

Since the plan’s birth, the space’s renovation has prompted concern from students and organizations impacted by the changes. For this reason, a set decision on the Mosaic Center’s purpose has yet to be reached.

“Nothing has been finalized for the Mosaic Center. I mean, it might not even be called the Mosaic Center,” Duckworth said. “Currently, they are discussing what purpose the Mosaic Center will serve, what do we want to see with our Women’s Center, Rainbow Dragon Center, and American Indian Research and Resource Center.

This semester, planners are addressing the issue of staffing to meet the needs of students who use the centers. This is so students don’t have to volunteer to do jobs that university staff is supposed to do.”

This school year is all about clarifying and establishing an idea of the Mosaic Center’s exact purpose. In achieving this goal, the final decisions regarding the Mosaic Center are up to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Donna Brown.

“It’s my understanding that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the chief diversity officer are going to be engaged in conversation with students and organizations this year to verify the final decisions on the locations and purposes of the organizations impacted by the Mosaic Center,” Anderson said.

Duckworth said that the university is under-invested and lacks focus on diversity. Talking to students impacted by these changes is a start toward addressing the current issues and demands the students have about the Mosaic Center.

“I think that before, why there was so much debate and worry, is because no one really knew what the Mosaic Center was supposed to be for,” Duckworth said. “There wasn’t a lot of communication going on before, for a variety of reasons, and so people would hear something that may not have been true and jump to conclusions.”

“Everyone has a different idea of what this center will do and what it fulfills for the students,” Anderson said.

In regard to the Women’s Center, Rainbow Dragon Center and other organizations, maintaining their current safe spaces is still up for discussion.

Additionally, planners have considered moving the Dragon Entertainment Group, AfterDark and Homecoming into the Mosaic Center in the future.

Although the underlying purpose of the Mosaic Center is still unclear, the $9 million project’s construction is scheduled to finish by the end of fall semester.

Renovation planners are arranging to have an open discussion between students and interior designers Sept. 9. For two hours, students will have a chance to pick out furniture that will be used around the CMU.

Subprojects and more to come

Amidst all the hectic reconstruction, several smaller projects are being addressed separate from the $9 million, 30,000-foot renovation.

The Union City ended its contract with Pizza Hut last June and its contract with Sodexo will end June of 2016. By early spring of that year, they will have reached a decision regarding whether Sodexo will continue providing dining services another five years or if a separate dining service will take its place.

In addition, several study areas and computer labs have been scattered around the CMU. More may be added throughout construction.

The board games and gaming tables previously located in the ROC will be scattered in lounges and computer labs around the CMU as well.

“The idea is to have an open plan with isolated pockets where a foosball table will be located or a few games, but there won’t be a central location for gaming,” Anderson said. “Before, the ROC was mostly treated like a lounge and wasn’t as heavily utilized. So they spread that out and provided several smaller lounges throughout the CMU, such as an International Students lounge, student involvement space and the Mosaic Center.”

The next projects being addressed are the ballroom and Union City renovations.

For more information about  changes to the CMU, contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and/or the Comstock Memorial Union Administrative Office.

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