Administration seeks $300k from SU for new office space
Washington University is currently seeking $300,000 in funding from Student Union for new furniture and other aesthetic features in SU’s office space—set to be consolidated from a two-story to a one-story space in the Danforth University Center.
Senate and Treasury will vote on whether to recommend to sophomore Sydney Robinson, SU’s newly sworn-in president, to fund the project using SU’s savings account, which currently holds $369,858.75. The groups can make a recommendation for anywhere between $0 and the full ask.
Although current rules allow Robinson to unilaterally earmark these funds as she sees fit, Robinson—along with Vice President of Finance and junior Iliana Ragnone—has decided to open up discussion to Senate and Treasury and to take the representatives’ decisions into account when determining whether to allocate the funds.
“It falls to the current president’s discretion on how to spend it, when to take it out,” Robinson said. “There’s no rules on what this can and can’t be spent on; so we wanted to present this to [Senate and Treasury] about what [they] think this should be spent on.”
Robinson said she plans to go with Senate and Treasury’s recommendation, though she may adjust the allocation slightly if more information emerges after the recommendation is made.
Regardless of SU’s decision, the University will spend $500,000 to design this new office space, which will be consolidated as part of a space reshuffling occurring this summer. However, in order for SU’s office to receive the full upgrade planned by architectural firm CannonDesign, the governing body must contribute an additional $300,000 in funding.
SU’s funds would go specifically toward design elements for “finishings and furnishings” rather than toward walls, lighting, plumbing and electricity, which would be funded by the University’s contribution.
“We really want to focus on design, finishes, etc.,” a CannonDesign architect said. “[SU’s] contribution is really sort of more aesthetic.”
Without Student Union funding, furnishings from the old office would be moved to the new space (if SU decides to fund, the furnishings would be placed elsewhere on campus or donated to charity). If SU chooses to go forward, the governing body would draw from its savings account, which started in June 2006 with carryforward from the 2005 fiscal year, to complete these renovations.
This space consolidation, moving all SU offices to the second floor of the DUC and reducing the governing body’s space by 300 square feet, is part of a yearlong space reevaluation process spearheaded by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White. SU was first approached regarding a potential move last semester, when senior Kenneth Sng was president of the group.
Representatives from Campus Life and Student Affairs noted that students have difficulty finding Student Union due to the two-floor spot and that staff offices are not conveniently located for students.
“We didn’t realize how difficult it was to have Student Union on two floors; in the design it looked great,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Rob Wild said. “We realized it’s confusing for people coming into the space, and it doesn’t really foster the connectedness we would have when it’s on one floor. Plus, there’s a large number of staff who have full-time involvement in Student Union.”
Senate and Treasury heard from Ragnone, Robinson, Wild, Executive Director of Campus Life Leslie Heusted and an architect from CannonDesign at a joint session Tuesday.
SU officers and representatives from Campus Life will hold additional office hours this week to ensure that senators and Treasury representatives are informed before making a decision next Tuesday, according to Robinson. The session has also been recorded so that representatives not present at the session can get up to speed.
“[We’re] really just creating any opportunity that Senate and Treasury reps need to come and get their questions answered or anything that we can do to help them understand this better,” Robinson said. “This is a big decision, and we want to make sure that they’re aware of what they’re voting on and understand it before we go into next session.”
In addition to SU’s move, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) will move from its Olin Library suite into Student Life Newspaper’s office, located on the third floor of the DUC. Student Life will move into an adjacent space currently occupied by DUC Event Management, and the staircase from the second to the third floor, located next to the Fun Room, will be opened up.
Event Management will move downstairs to Student Union’s office space, allowing all Campus Life entities to operate in the same location on the first floor.
Wild said these changes were made with a 5- or 10-year plan in mind and expects the spaces to remain unchanged for close to 10 years.
The entire renovation is expected to cost around $1.6 million, according to Wild. The widespread office changes were necessitated because of plans to move the CDI (never meant to be permanently housed in Olin Library) to the DUC, which created a “domino effect”.
“The Danforth University Center is the heart of the student experience of this campus, and moving to DUC and the opening of that stairwell on the second floor will help not just the visibility of the CDI,” Wild said. “I don’t think we did a great job when we designed the building…we’re making sure that people know life exists beyond the 2nd floor.”