Associated Students of Portland State University’s Student Fee Committee rejected a $490,000 proposal to remodel the Student Activities and Leadership Programs’ mezzanine on Thursday, April 5. SALP and students have been working on the proposal since spring 2015.
The project aimed to redesign and update the current layout of the student leadership space with an emphasis on efficiency, accessibility, conference rooms and a large social room for student leaders.
The proposal would add a reception area to the leadership suite in an effort to improve organizational efficiency and make SALP more visible to students looking to get involved in student activities.
SALP developed the renovation proposal based on information from student forums, student and SALP committees and 102 responses to a survey sent to student leaders. This project, like all other Smith Memorial Student Union projects, would require funding from student building fees.
In the survey, student leaders expressed a need for more conference rooms, meeting rooms and practice spaces. In some cases, such as when student leaders want to lead dance practice, the only space available is located above the Disability Resource Center. The proposed renovation would have moved this space and soundproofed it.
“Students talked a lot about having the space set up in ways that makes sense,” said SALP Director Aimee Shattuck. “All the advisors and accountants [should be in] one space. [There should be] a front desk that’s really central and prominent to all the things that people are trying to find. It can help with finding what you want to get connected to, for students who aren’t already involved, and it could also be a leadership engagement center.”
SALP also wanted to improve the safety of the suite, particularly in the back corner of the mezzanine and bathrooms. “These spaces have been subject to crime and drug use in the past due to the dim-lit, secluded nature of the space,” the proposal states.
“It’s kind of a bummer because we’ve worked on it for multiple years, students have really worked on the plans and the forums and lots of surveys, and we feel like we’ve come up with a good idea that can not only help alleviate student leaders’ and SALP’s issues but other issues of space in the building,” said Shattuck.
Currently, approximately 30 of 150 SALP-recognized student groups have access to an office in the mezzanine suite. The small office spaces, which were originally designed for telecommunications, are mostly used for storage.
The SFC also denied the proposal last year, but voted to allocate funds for storage cages in the basement of SMSU.
“In the last two years [the proposal] has been rejected, but [three years ago] we got the funds from the SFC to do the design,” Shattuck said. “That was $150,000 and [the SFC was] excited about it. But then there was a change in members. It’s politics, and we have to follow the waves of who’s making the decisions.”
The project was also proposed as something that could be completed in stages, such as working on the clubhouse or reception area first. These smaller projects were also denied.
The process of allocating funds to building projects is still underway, with the SFC still working with Sarah Kenney, Executive Administrative Coordinator for Planning, Construction & Real Estate and Dan Zalkow, Associate Vice President for Planning, Construction & Real Estate to investigate the full costs of projects currently up for funding.
“In the summer the SFC decided to make its top two priorities accessibility and safety,” said SFC Chair Patrick Meadors. “The SFC has been interpreting accessibility [as] making the campus more accessible for people with disabilities, and safety as both making the campus physically easier to navigate and more quickly able to respond to emergencies.”
The only project under investigation is adding control access doors in SMSU. All other building projects in SMSU were denied this year. The SFC also voted in favor of other projects, including adding a directory to the newly built Karl Miller Center and adding another ramp to Millar Library.
“I would say that most, if not all of us were supportive of SALP’s idea for SMSU,” Meadors added, “[but] we were not sufficiently convinced that it addressed the SFC’s top priorities this year.”