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Olmsted lower level renovation to begin summer 2011

This week’s two-hour long Senate meeting consisted mostly of discussions about the Olmsted Center. Senators considered what should be done with its lower level, when it should be open and how it should be used.

Assistant Dean of Students Melissa Sturm-Smith was at the meeting to ask Senate for input on the future of Olmsted’s lower level, formerly Terrace Court.

Sturm-Smith presented four options for what the renovation, tentatively scheduled for summer of 2011, could entail. The first was what Sturm-Smith called “a satellite rec center location,” likening it to an Anytime Fitness.

There would be treadmills, there would some ellipticals and there would be some free weights,” she said. “It would of course be much smaller than what you see down at the Bell Center, but would be a satellite location. We think it maybe would just be open to students, but that would sort of have to be figured out.”

The second idea was an expansion of the conference rooms already there, allowing for much larger group meetings, and including new furniture and furnishings.

Option three was similar to an on-campus post office and copy center, with FedEx and UPS services. There would also be mailboxes for all students for use throughout their four years at the university. Sturm-Smith said the campus mailboxes “would be a service, not a requirement” and could be used so that students would be able to keep the same address throughout college.

The last idea discussed was a student-faculty lounge space.

Sturm-Smith said these options arose out of perceived student concerns as well as what would be viable given the available space and budget.

The timeline for the project is short, she said, meaning she was hoping for initial, informal feedback from Senate. She said the information gathered at the meeting would be taken back to the planning group, including Sodexo General Manager Dannie Crozier, Director of Operations and Support Services Jolene Schmidt, Vice President of Business and Finance Vicky Payseur and Director of Purchasing and Business Services Caron Findlay. The project has also been examined by the university Cabinet, and will be discussed, as well as probably finalized, at the Board of Trustees meeting in mid-January.

“We have to work within the timeline given. Honestly I’m coming to you as fast as I knew about it,” she said. “We’re working with real-world parameters here.”

To begin, several senators said the informal feedback they had received had been overwhelmingly in favor of the satellite fitness center.

“The non-athletes liked it a lot because they feel like it’s overwhelming in the Bell Center, especially with the free weights,” Sen. Seejo Valacheril said. “And for the athletes…they liked the idea of having separate locations.”

“I had the exact same reaction,” Sen. Laura Menendez said. “The list goes on and on of complaints about the current situation at the Bell center, so a lot of people were in support of having a separate rec center just to help with the flow of people.”

Some senators said they had heard positive feedback for a mailing center, and Sen. Kayleigh Koester said they would appreciate the consistency for services like magazine subscription and voting registration.

But others expressed concern about its practicality.

“Everything is moving towards online, like bills and that kind of thing. Is this something, from a financial standpoint, that we want to invest a bunch of dollars in that might dwindle over time in being a necessity?” Vice President of Student Activities Greg Larson asked. “There is a need for packaging and that kind of thing, so maybe that could be a small component, but to invest in a whole mailing system might not be the best use of dollars over the long-term.”

Sen. Megan Hutcheson pointed out that many students rarely check their mail.

“I don’t think there are enough students that would utilize it, and mail would sit down there for months and months at a time,” she said. “I think it would just become another thing that’s poorly utilized and poorly run that we put money into that we shouldn’t have.”

There was also a discussion of a campus-wide survey, but it was ruled out because of the short time span available and concerns about whether there was enough information decided upon to properly gather information.

After 45 minutes, Sturm-Smith took an informal poll, allowing each senator two votes.

Every one of them voted in favor of a 24-hour area, an idea Sen. Michael Riebel said students had been recommending to him. Ten votes were cast for a renovation of the meeting rooms, nine for a satellite fitness center, three for a lounge area and none for a mailing center.

Sturm-Smith also proposed an idea for a change in Olmsted Center operating hours, something Senate had discussed at an earlier meeting and requested more data about.

She presented a two-month study on its usage, with average student presence numbers. At 10 p.m., the number was 40. It dropped to 17 by 11 p.m., and eight by midnight. Sturm-Smith’s recommendation was to close the building at 11:30 p.m. every night of the week. She said the university was less in favor of Senate’s idea to close the building earlier on the weekends, saying the resistance was “more of a philosophical decision than a data-based decision” promoting on-campus weekend programming.

Later in the meeting, senators discussed the options. Several spoke about a desire to foster more of a social, welcoming environment in Olmsted.

“It’s like walking through a graveyard,” Sen. Earl Lee said of the building. “There needs to be something else going on besides an open space.”

But President Samantha Haas urged senators to stick to the issue at hand, operating hours for next semester.

“As much as I would love for Olmsted open later than 12:30, we have to look at the overall responsibility of the entire Drake campus, so I would have to side with Student Life on this,” Sen. Amanda Laurent said.

No conclusions were reached on the issue.

Also during the meeting, Student Body Auditor Brad Koenen recommended against raising the student activity fee, a resolution Senate passed unanimously.

Another unanimous approval was for a $895.00 funding allocation to Drake Mediation and Moot Court National Moot Court to cover costs associated with sending a two-member team to the National Moot Court Tournament in January at Tulane University in New Orleans.

The next Student Senate meeting will be Jan. 20.

IN BRIEF

  • Four options presented by Melissa Sturm-Smith for lower Olmsted renovation, tentatively scheduled for summer 2011.
  • Satellite fitness location
  • Student and faculty lounge
  • Expansion and upgrade of conference rooms
  • Campus post office with student mailboxes and printing center

Senate also proposed a 24-hour space. The feedback will be presented to the planning committee and the Board of Trustees

  • Senate discussed, but did not reach a consensus on, changing operating hours of the Olmsted Center next semester.
  • Study activity fee will not be raised next semester, per Study Body Auditor Brad Koenen’s recommendation.
  • Drake Mediation and Moot Court was allocated $895.00 to send a two-member team to the National Moot Court Tournament in January at Tulane University in New Orleans.
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1 Comment

  1. drake2012 December 16, 2010

    This is a joke! That as a student, the senate has input and the rest of campus does not! A quick study via email for students is what should be done. A Fedex/ups store idea is a joke and would be under used, the only reason this would be chosen is because of the kick back in terms of $$ the school would get from rent and services offered by a fedexs or ups store type setup. Its not like the senators communicate with the rest of the student body, to read about this in the TD is good, but senators should be communitcating with the rest of campus!

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