A decision to begin the process of moving Portland State’s Women’s Resource Center to the fourth floor of Smith Memorial Student Union is getting pushback from SMSU’s Advisory Board and members of student government, who oppose the displacement of the Quiet Study Lounge currently occupying the space.
The Space Allocation Committee, which has jurisdiction over all education and general space at PSU, voted on Nov. 28 to reallocate the QSL’s space to the WRC. Reasons for the choice included concerns over significant wayfinding, security, confidentiality and accessibility challenges faced by the WRC in their current location, as well as an effort to increase the center’s visibility.
According to Jason Franklin, director of campus planning and design, the move is a done deal. “The WRC can move in at any time,” he stated in an email. “But there are a number of improvements that would have to made first.”
The Smith Advisory Board said they were not consulted prior to the final decision by SAC, despite commitments that their approval would be sought for space considerations in SMSU.
“[SAC] say they take the SMSU Advisory Board’s recommendation into serious consideration since we work with the building the most closely and also have students representing student interests,” said Emily Korte, Associated Students of PSU director of university affairs and a member of the SMSU Advisory Board.
Smith Advisory Board has student representatives but no students currently sit on SAC.
The WRC withdrew a request for the space in early 2018 with the understanding that an alternative option would be explored, according to Franklin.
“In September 2018, the WRC concluded that a viable solution other than them being in the QSL was not forthcoming,” Franklin stated. “So they again requested the space. In November 2018 the SAC approved the request and believed that due to the accessibility and safety issues, a decision should not be delayed further.”
Korte said she agrees the WRC belongs in SMSU, but feels that the QSL space is not a good fit. Many students, including members of ASPSU’s University Affairs Committee and the SMSU Advisory Board, have expressed opposition to the decision.
“Since the WRC is taking over the QSL, they will need to build offices and refurnish the space,” Korte said. While the costs of that are still being estimated, the current figure is upwards of $150,000, according to Korte. “The QSL will also not be moved and students will lose that study and lounge space because there are no other plausible options for a new lounge within Smith currently.”
Korte also pointed out that students have already spent over $132,000 renovating the QSL between 2009–2013.
In a January 2018 memo sent to SAC, the SMSU Advisory Board pointed to a 2015 student survey reporting quiet study spaces were the number one priority for use of SMSU.
The University Affairs committee is proposing a resolution to the ASPSU senate to preserve the Quiet Study Lounge on Feb. 18.