Making Space for Students in SUB

One of the goals highlighted in MSU’s recently unveiled Strategic Plan is an increase in student engagement, particularly the percent of students actively involved in student organizations. Parsing out exactly how MSU will increase club participation requires more reflection on the services which facilitate this involvement.

One resource particularly valuable in the search for student engagement is the Strand Union Building (SUB). As a central, multi-use building on campus, the SUB is a space that “strives to provide students with a space for personal development and fulfillment through opportunities in student government, community service groups and employment as well as recreational events,” according to its stated mission. More importantly, the SUB is a building rich with a history that strives to meet the needs of students.

With this tradition comes a strong responsibility to provide ample room for student involvement in the planning of SUB space. The venue for participation is traditionally through the SUB advisory board meetings, a board dedicated to the planning and oversight of the building’s activities.

Recently, however, as staff and administration offices have been moved into the SUB, space has become a precious commodity, with student organizations suffering the consequences.

One calamity of the SUB space crunch has been student club lockers. Over the course of 2012, the lockers have been relocated from the SUB, installed and removed from Culbertson Hall, and then effectively eliminated to make space for a branch of the Office of Activities and Engagement. As last week’s edition of the Exponent reported, some student club members were frustrated that their needs had not been properly considered nor their input sought.  According to student body president Kiah Abbey, ASMSU and the SUB administration discussed temporary locker space in the third-floor SUB stairwells. However, the future of club storage is uncertain.

The lack of student input in this process is troubling, given the SUB’s mission. Though space will always be an issue, students deserve a clear route to enter the conversation. Historically, this has been through the SUB advisory board.

UM’s University Center (UC), the equivalent to MSU’s SUB, also has an advisory board. Student participation in this model is clearly accessible. Through regular meetings, a majority of student seats and published minutes, the students are given a consistent and informed opportunity to influence UC policy.

Our own advisory board follows a similar model, though with less public accessibility and active student participation. In order to improve upon this process, and to meet the needs of students and the wider campus community, the SUB advisory board may need to increase the level of student involvement. This is both an invitation to students to express their interests to the SUB advisory board, and a challenge to the board to make sure those interests are adequately represented.

One of the core missions of the SUB is to accommodate and unite the campus. Students and student organizations must be its top priority. Recognizing that the SUB is one of the only spaces on campus devoted to student culture, it’s important for SUB administration to keep student sentiment in mind as it makes decisions regarding this unique space.