Something that has existed at OSU for more than forty years is ending…and it’s a very good thing in my opinion. The era of campus student program separation on campus is coming to a close and a new unified location for campus programs to share is on its way. If you know OSU history, then you might be aware that in the 1970’s a very difficult decision about space for student union/student activity functions at OSU was reached. It essentially moved all student activity, student government and student media programs out of the Memorial Union and down the hill to a renovated building that was purchased from Housing. That building was known as Snell Hall. It picked up the name “MU East” after the renovation. People have been confused about its identity ever since.
If you ask people at OSU who’ve been around these programs for many years, you are likely to hear both positive and negative effects of separating these out-of-class functions and activities into two locations. From my perspective, the negatives of the separation far out-weigh the positives. With the funding of the SEC construction and the funding of the MU’s East Wing renovation, we now are coming much closer to having a unified site for OSU’s various student funded and student run programs, once again.
Looking around the country, the number of student unions with integrated student activity organizations sharing the union, far out-number those who’ve chosen to put these entities in two or more separate sites. Co-location provides for a sense of student program presence, vitality and active engagement that is far more difficult when locating separately. Students looking to become involved in programs can find program headquarters more easily and collaboration between program units and service units increases.
A shared union site for all programs will bring loads of new opportunities, but it will also require us to serve and think about our roles in very different ways than we’ve been taught to think by living a block apart. To be clear, the complex will be home to many organizations that are co-located, but are not part of a single reporting structure. As we move forward with the programming phase of the construction projects by deciding what goes where, we have an opportunity to think very strategically about how co-location asks that programs complement each other, not compete. This project gives us the opportunity to think about the entire SEC/MU site as a single structure linked by a phenomenal new outdoor covered space that can be used for hundreds of new programs per year. The results of the construction and renovation will bring to OSU students and campus programs new possibilities that we have never dreamed of previously. We are excited to be fully engaged with students at-large and student leaders as we create this amazing new facility complex. We ask that you bring us your ideas and share your perspectives. This is our chance to create something that has been missing from our campus for over forty years….a unified union and campus activity headquarters.