Center stage

The U of C needs a new student center.

By Maroon Editorial Board

Since publishing a comprehensive report on student life more than a decade ago, the University has built a new athletics center, a new dorm, and begun construction of an art center south of the Midway. Now, with Associate Dean of the College Bill Michel working on an updated report, the administration should take steps toward providing students with the student center it so sorely needs.

Fundamentally, a student center requires more space than the Reynolds Club offers. Stop by on a weekday afternoon and you’re likely to find it packed to capacity—Hutch and the C-Shop full of eaters and studiers and talkers, the McCormick Tribune Lounge full of sleepers, and Hallowed Grounds full of coffee sippers and pool players.

At other universities, the student center serves as a true hub of campus life. With computer labs, bowling alleys, post offices, arcades, and print shops—in addition to cafés, auditoriums, and reading lounges—they provide students with a one-stop location for all their pressing errands, while serving as a place to hang out and meet friends. Students would undoubtedly make good use of a larger, quiet study space with quick access to coffee and food and none of the fluorescent claustrophobia of the Reg.

The lack of space allotted to student organizations is similarly problematic. Currently, RSOs have to vie for room in the cramped Reynolds Club basement. Providing all RSOs with office and meeting spaces, as well as room for storage, would go a long way toward increasing their presence on campus. RSOs would further benefit from quick access to computer labs and printing facilities.

Another problem with the Reynolds Club is its dining options—because of space considerations, Hutch serves largely overpriced, underwhelming food, with all but the ever-busy Subway controlled by Aramark. By opening up competition to popular chains, a new food court would become a major draw for students, providing them with the choices they want at a convenient location.

It’s not our place to decide where a new student center would go or when it should be built. President Zimmer has said that in light of the economic crisis, some current projects will be delayed, and presumably others in the planning stages will take even longer to get off the ground. But what’s crucial is that the University recognize that the Reynolds Club cannot adequately serve its purported function. For the sake of students—current and future—the University needs to invest in a student center that will be a vibrant center of student life.