The University Center will be renovated within a year, during which time the school will hire an architect and a plan for renovation will be settled upon, according to James Pellow, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University.
The University Center is considered inadequate and outdated by a number of students.
“It kind of sucks,” said Anna Senat, a senior criminal justice major at St. John’s. “St. John’s is relatively a big name and people who come here are amazed at how our alleged student union looks. It could be so much better.”
“I think that it definitely needs a little bit of a face lift,” said Joe Nacinovich, a junior marketing major and manager of the printing co-op housed in the UC.
“I went to a concert in Adelphi’s building and I was impressed,” Nacinovich continued. “It has four floors, and I mean they had a concert there. We couldn’t do that here.”
“It’s too small,” said Senat regarding the St. John’s student center. “We have over 100 organizations on campus and due to our limited space people have to apply for office space. The building is falling apart. I mean there are leaks in the offices.”
The issue has been raised several times at Haraya meetings, at SGI organizational congresses, and at town halls hosted by the University.
“Most of my friends go to public colleges but since we pay so much you would think that something could be done,” Senat said.
“I don’t think that most organizations feel like they have room to do the work that they need to get done,” said Director of Campus Activities Damien Duchamp, whose office is in the St. John’s University Center. “A lot of our major groups, in a way are a little bit hidden. Unless you are already part of an organization you’ll never find us up here.”
“I think that it’s clear there is a need for a better facility,” Duchamp said. “Some people would think that a brand new facility would solve all the problems but frankly I like what the University Center can be and I think a lot of it is just tweaking and reworking what we already have.”
Duchamp points to the limited programming space on campus as being a problem that could possibly be alleviated with a better student facility.
“It’s not that the space doesn’t exist but we have to look at how we use space a little bit differently as far as programming,” Duchamp said.
When asked about the possibility of a renovated University Center, the Vice President of Student Affairs, Fr. James Maher, C.M. pointed to the “universal improvements on the campus.”
“As far as the facilities for the students there’s a concern and a hope that we could use the UC more effectively for students,” Maher said.
The Association of College Unions, a group founded in 1914, states on their Web site that a student union complements the academic experience through “an extensive variety of cultural, educational, social, and recreational programs.”
Local schools such as Adelphi University, CUNY Queens College, and Hofstra University all boast student facilities that are more modern and larger than the present University Center at St. John’s University.
“It’s nice,” said Jason Linkus, a senior psychology major at Adelphi regarding the school’s UC. “You walk in and there’s an open area with couches and tables and then you can go get something to eat in either the cafeteria area or the eating area downstairs.”
Linkus added that Adelphi’s UC offers several computer and commuter lounge in the basement of the building.
Eleni Damanakis, a 2004 graduate of CUNY Queens College, offered similar sentiments regarding the school’s Student Union.
“It’s a great building with four floors and inside there’s the ballroom area for dances, dinners, and stuff like that,” Damanakis said.
“I’m sure it’s changed somewhat since I’ve been there,” Damanakis continued, “but the Student Union has areas to eat and a lounge with couches and tables. Also, all the clubs have their offices in there.”
Hofstra’s facility, the Student Center, is placed at the approximate geographic center of campus, making it also a central place where students congregate.
“It has a large area with places to get different foods,” said Danielle Epstein, a senior political science major at Hofstra. “Student organizations have office space, the dean of students has an office there, and the SC as a whole is a really large building that has a lot to offer in one spot.”
Hofstra’s Student Government Association along with the majority of Hofstra’s Greek Life population utilizes the building, Epstein said.
“I think that my honest sense would be, not having visited a lot of [other student unions],” Maher continued, “is that in all likelihood there probably are nicer facilities at other campuses, but the thing I would say is that the University has made strides in terms of providing facilities for students while holding onto the mission of the University.”