Heather Newton

The committee selected to begin the feasibility study for the pre-design phase of a potential new student center will have its first meeting May 9.

Fourteen individuals were selected to create the student center committee. Their present goals are to define what a student center should be, explained Miami University architect, Robert Keller.

In February, the board of trustees approved $250,000 be allocated to fund this design concept process. Keller said it would take time to make sure the committee determines the plans for a student center that fits the needs of those it would serve.

“What we definitely don’t want to do is replicate the Shriver Center in a new location,” Keller said. “We are creating something new, a student center, in a new location.”

At this time, the committee is looking at locating the new center near Williams Hall, the Campus Avenue Building, and the Health Services Center. The Office of Planning and Construction in the department of physical facilities, along with Keller, has hopes of expanding the sidewalk that leads from the Recreational Sports Center to the Health Services Center entirely to Spring Street. This sidewalk they have nicknamed “the south walk area,” according to Keller.

While this seems to be the best location at the time, it is not set in stone. If this does become the desired location, some buildings will have to be torn down to make the plans work, but no decisions on the location of the center have been finalized at this time, explained Steve Snyder, executive assistant to the president.

“In my mind from a planning standpoint, I don’t think the Campus Avenue Building efficiently occupies the amount of space it does,” Keller said.

A new student center has been discussed by the past six student body presidents according to Snyder.

It was first idealized by David Doyle, 2001-02 student body president.

According to Associated Student Government (ASG) meeting minutes Dec. 7, 2001 Doyle said, “The Shriver Center does not serve the needs of the students, and it is (my) hope that a new student union will be considered as a part of the (First in) 2009 initiatives.”

Snyder said he thinks the campus needs a more specific place for students and more space where students can spend their free time.

“This campus has something missing,” Snyder said.

Susan Mosley-Howard, the committee chair as well as the dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs, agrees this university is lacking a central place for students.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to create a level of engagement among the student body, which I think we’ve been lacking,” Mosley-Howard said. “The students need a place where the intentional signal is, ‘This is your place.'”

Sophomore Jacqueline Partridge is the ASG representative on the committee. Partridge said that among the concerns she has heard is the two-hour block of time in the Shriver Center where only cash and credit cards can be used to purchase food.

“The students’ biggest complaints are the 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. time shift as well as poor lighting, not enough places to study, more use of the large rooms for group meetings, and more entertainment than one pool table,” Partridge said.

Many members of the committee hope this student center will be an alternative activity to drinking, one of the large concerns of the Hodge administration.

“This building by itself will not fix the drinking problem,” Mosley-Howard said. “But I think it is a piece of a comprehensive approach, and I certainly think it will help.”

In an interview, President David Hodge explained his thoughts about the possibility of the new student center compared to the existing Shriver Center.

“We don’t have a student center,” Hodge said.

Snyder agreed and said the Shriver Center is a university center – meaning it is a facility for the entire university, not just students, and that the university needs an improved student center.

According to Snyder, the building was named the University Center before it was re-named after Phillip R. Shriver in 1954.

Hodge said that the building of a new student center would not replace the Shriver Center.

“The student center does not replace the Shriver Center, it compliments it,” Hodge said.

At this point in time, specialty consultants, architects and engineers will be hired to help the committee with the goals of defining what a student center should look like by using their experience of building student centers at other schools, Keller said.

He also said that the pre-design phase should be finished and a report of the general ideas, location, and size of the building will be sent to the administration by the end of the 2007 calendar year.

“In six months, we’ll be able to tell you a lot more,” Keller said.

At the beginning of 2008 will begin the schematic design stage, which consists of beginning to create a building plan and fitting it on the site proposed. The committee members have said that the building should be up and running around 2011-2012. Hodge said he hopes to see this new student center be a part of the bicentennial anniversary of the university.