Myki Dee Kim, Staff Writer
Whether it be attending an Associated Students of Saint Martin’s University (ASSMU) meeting, playing pool at 10 p.m., or even grabbing $5 movie passes from the front desk, the Trautman Union Building (TUB) continues to be the heart of campus. From a wide variety of programs to two offices, the TUB serves the community in a multitude of ways.
As the campus population continues to grow and programs become more frequent, there has been talk in recent years to push for a larger student union building to accommodate current and future Saints.
At universities such as Seattle University, the University of Portland, and Gonzaga University, student union buildings are bigger (typically two to three stories), and have the accessibility to hold more programs, and events without worrying about reaching maximum capacity of the space. At these universities, their student union building also encompasses many other on-campus services such as their respective office of campus life, several meeting rooms, dining services, bookstores, and other programming facilities for all to utilize.
The TUB has served generations of the campus community well, but many worry that the school is beginning to outgrow the TUB. Many on campus events that typically have been held in the TUB have had to be moved due to building capacity. For example, High Stakes Bingo Night at the beginning of each semester used to be held in the TUB up until last academic year. It has since been moved to the Worthington Center as space in the TUB became scarce to meet the needs of the attending population.
Senior Business Administration major, Marcus Bufford, believes that the TUB is not necessarily a perfect space but “it’s where we gather and where we have all these fantastic community based events.”
Bufford has fond memories attending varying on-campus events in the TUB such as Casino Night, performances by breathtaking magicians, and hilarious comedians. Bufford believes that TUB staff has done a wonderful job livening up the space, but to him, the building feels small and bland. As a student hang-out area, and a hub for the community to gather and engage with one another, he believes that there should be different types of decorations to represent different communities and ideas.
Compared to other universities, the TUB is smaller, but he does not believe that it is a detriment to the space itself: “I say that because from what I have seen and understand about other student union buildings, a lot of them seem to incorporate other things so it’s not just a space dedicated to student community. Whereas the TUB really is and that’s what it’s main focus is.”
If Saint Martin’s does get a new student union building in the future, Bufford hopes that it would evolve in its amenities and allow for other spaces such as workshops, a music hall, another dining facility, and other interactions that the university may allow for.
Bufford emphasized the importance of a shared music space as he believes that music is a good form of community, and “a larger music hall would be perfect because the current building we have is small and the campus is in desperate need of a larger space for the arts.”
He also emphasized the importance of an added coffee stand or cafeteria service in the new building as food brings people together and creates community. Bufford does worry that other on-campus spaces, such as the Norman Worthington Conference Center, would not be utilized as much by the campus community if a new student union building arrives on campus.
In his personal opinion, Bufford does not believe that there is a current need for a new student union building and would prefer the funding for the potential building to go elsewhere such as to new and improved student scholarships, or even a larger recreation facility to accommodate all users of the space.
Melanie Richardson, Dean of Students, has been in active and regular conversations surrounding the idea of a new student union building. Richardson noted that administration, the board, and members of the abbey have had a great deal of conversation surrounding the idea of a new building.
Chief Financial Officer, Sarah Saavedra, is actively working on a needs-analysis with the student government to align with the needs of the university.
With the conversations held by university executives, there was a note that creating a new building in the short term would be extremely difficult and a future campus building would include a potential performing arts building: “In the immediate future, space needs should be addressed through potential reuse of existing space.” Richardson loves that the TUB is an area students can call their own and that student services such as ASSMU and Campus Life are easily accessible for the campus population.
In the event of a new building, Richardson hopes to have a planning committee with heavy student membership and input and to allow for relevant student affairs offices and student services to be in the building while continuing to be a gathering spot for all students to join in community with one another. She hopes for student events to continue to draw increasing numbers of students and to allow spaces to accommodate hosted activities. One thing to consider is what to do with the existing TUB in the event of a new student union building.
Richardson noted that the TUB “is beloved and there is much history to honor in the building. Space is always a sacred commodity on campus, and I imagine there would be many competing interests.”
Through recent conversations, Richardson has appreciated the passion and advocacy from ASSMU these years with the Board of Trustees. She had wished for conversation this academic year to continue in order to strategize other options for student ideas in the future. However, she does believe that the continued advocacy of ASSMU has opened the door for additional student spaces and ultimately a new building in the future.
The beloved TUB continues to be the heart of student activity on campus ranging from a nice study space to an awesome Campus Life event. Talk of a new student union building is currently in the works but may be seen later in the future rather than an immediate action. It is important that Saints remember to cherish the spaces and resources we currently have and to look forward to new and exciting innovations for our campus community in the future.