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CAMPUS CENTER EXPANSION TO CONSOLIDATE STUDENT OFFICES

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Most student groups in the Campus Center will lose their offices next year as part of an effort to fit more organizations into the building’s West Addition expansion.

“There’s a higher demand for space than there is a supply,” said Michael Christakis, vice president for Student Affairs.

Instead of offices, groups in the new building will share a common area, but the number of student groups leaving the current Campus Center has not been confirmed. The only student group confirmed to maintain office space is WCDB Radio.

Campus Center Management anticipates deliberation over space among student groups to begin towards the end of the semester as the project progresses.

“I think everybody wants to have a nice palatial office like I have here,” said Scott Birge, director of Campus Center Management. “But there just isn’t enough room to facilitate all of our student groups.”

With over 300 student groups on campus, the common area is intended to serve more organizations and increase interaction among student groups. About 40 students can fit in the new space at a time.

“We did a lot of studying of stuff across the country,” said Birge. “This seems to develop a lot more synergy between the different groups.”

Glenn Phillips, secretary of UAlbany Vets, is uncertain that the common area would be able to accommodate all student groups, especially veterans. Phillips mentioned that the group’s current site allows veterans to discuss private matters such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder behind closed doors.

“I definitely agree that there needs to be more events that bring student groups together, but it’s also nice just to have your own little spot where you can do group activities by yourself,” he said.

Unlike Phillips, Angelica Chin, treasurer of Sankofa Africa, praises the possibility of her office moving from the African heritage suite to the common area.

“I really love the idea of open space so we can all interact with each other,” said Chin.

Groups like Sankofa Africa currently reside in spaces spun out of early consolidation efforts. In partnership with WTW Architects, Campus Center Management pushed to increase suites in an effort to and promote collaboration.

Although the majority of student groups now share office space, groups such as Hillel, one of the largest religious organizations on campus, have their own room. Austin Ostro, president of Hillel, mentioned that the organization would face challenges conducting religious services and hosting community events without their room.

“I think it would be disruptive to our programming and our goals if we lost our own space,” said Ostro.

Along with Hillel losing individual space for religious services, the Muslim Student Association would also lose its own space for prayer if they were moved to the West Addition.

“I feel like a lot of people would like to have their own space for their own religious sect, whether it’s for praying or meditating,” said Mariam Noory, the public relations coordinator for the Muslim Student Association.

The new building will include a meditation room, but the space may occasionally be too small for prayer, Campus Center Management reported. Similar to Friday Jumu’ah prayers in the current Campus Center, staff will work with students in the West Addition to find available space.

While student groups like the MSA have not yet been confirmed to move, student government leaders have been scheduled to move since the beginning of the project. Over the semester, SA leaders plan to discuss growing concerns about the new space including a lack of offices needed for executive positions.

“That is a concern for us moving forward, but regardless of whatever barriers we have set up, we need to work with what we have to make sure that everything will be in place,” said SA President Felix Abreu.

Despite the lack of office space, Michael Jaromin, executive director of Campus Life, believes the new SA location will have greater traffic, being located next to the bus stop and a Starbucks.

“You’re going to have some tradeoffs,” said Jaromin. “You’re going to have just as much work spaces, and you’re going to have a much greater space to work with.”

Unlike the SA, the Graduate Student Association will remain in the original building.  As a result of ongoing construction two years ago, the GSA was moved to a former storage space. Since leaving the Terrace Lounge, the GSA has advocated to relocate within the current building due to visibility and spatial concerns.

“I would be very concerned about us being here long term,” said GSA Office Manager and 2013-15 GSA President Caitlin Janiszewski. “I’m upset by the idea that we’re several years into a multi-million dollar Campus Center project and we still don’t know where we’re going to end up.”

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Tyler A. McNeil is the current managing editor for the Albany Student Press. The Capital Region native previously served as managing editor for The Hudsonian, and as an intern for the Times Union and Capital Tonight.

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