Well, it’s finally here. Whether we like it or not, the long-awaited, ever-controversial, $62 million Student Center is here.
Though fourth and fifth-year students remember its introduction in a student-wide vote back in April 2011, the Student Center – formerly dubbed the university center – has been in the works as far back as 1996.
On one hand we want to continue to analyze how and why the Student Center fees could have been used more effectively and usefully, but the other part of us wants to throw our hands in the air and stop beating a dead horse.
Let’s start with the benefits: the Student Center rode on the slogan, “For students, by students,” and it is definitely geared toward students.
Not only do student employees such as assistants and senate members have modern, open work areas that resemble the Facebook office shown in “The Social Network,” but the revamped meeting and event spaces that are replacing entities like the HUB and the Center for Student Leadership, Involvement and Service look like they belong in a high-end hotel lobby. That, combined with the expansion of the bookstore and dining venues, makes us believe that the designers of the Student Center truly had the students’ best interests in mind.
But we must continue to ask ourselves – was it worth it? The Entrepreneurial Activities office took out a $51 million, 30-year loan to construct the building, accounting for 8,600 students paying the $300 annual fee over the next 30 years to cover 25 percent of the bond. This fee has just been implemented for this fall semester, raising the total cost of education here to $7,234 – the third highest rate in the CSU system. Though this reassures the students that they will only pay for the center for as long as they use it, there is a significant amount of daunting financial pressure on the university as a 30-year commitment hangs over its head – especially since many of us were under the impression that the building would be paid for once it was completed.
Will enrollment eventually increase under pressure to repay that debt? Was the construction of the Student Center meant to increase enrollment of Sonoma State? Will the major increase in fees continue to limit the diversity of those who enroll to our campus?
An increase in enrollment would be detrimental to our already flimsy budget, limited seat availability and class infrastructure. It would also continue to obliterate the small town feeling that many of us sought when choosing Sonoma State, which some of us feel that the Student Center is already doing.
Also, how cramped will we feel once we’re inside? While we agree that a centralized sense of community was somewhat needed on this campus, and that this building has the potential to bring many of us closer together, we can’t help but flashback to headlines of last week’s Graton Casino opening – the facility had reached capacity mere hours after it opened. Will the same thing happen tomorrow? Casey Kelly, a marketing coordinator at the Student Center, didn’t know the building’s capacity, but its 130,000 square footage and relocated campus stores, restaurants and offices implies that the capacity will be pretty large.
We can’t help thinking that Opening Day, and maybe even the weeks, months and years to follow, might resemble a madhouse as hundreds of students rush around the building to use all the different outlets, taking “closer together” to a new level.
We’re torn on whether or not we support the Student Center, so we’re approaching it with a dual perspective. We have accepted the fact that it has been built and are excited for what is to come; but we also are treading lightly, anticipating the drawbacks and risks that come with it.
We understand that all parties behind the construction of the Student Center have worked extremely hard to fulfill their vision, and we hope that the majority of Seawolves will be impressed and satisfied with the results.
But can we please agree to tighten our purse strings from now on?