Students discuss future Student Center expansion

Photo by Ben Keyserling

Among many improvements that have been spurred due to the growing population at Tech, Student Center expansion continues to be a prevalent topic.

Limited meeting space, dining options and long lines have become commonplace issues that students deal with on a daily basis. Despite this, few students are aware of the current aims to begin expanding this student center.

The Student Center was first established in 1970 in order to serve a smaller student body of 7,000. Smaller expansions have occurred since then, bringing about amenities such as a larger ballroom and the Greenhouse dining room. The Student Center Commons, a separate building where fast food and student involvement offices are currently located, was completed in 2004 and merged with the primary building near the location of the Post Office.

Kim Harrington, former Director of the Student Center, has been leading the effort of expansion for a number of years.

“The leadership within Campus Services is very supportive of student life and wants to develop a space that further facilitates how students, faculty, staff, and guests can feel connected,” Harrington said. “We are looking for a space that is reflective of the pride and culture of the Institute.”

Overall, a full-scale expansion remains a distant resolution. No definite plans or decisions have been made as to exactly what new services will be available to guests of the new Student Center in the future. Although much of the ideation is still elementary in progress, student leaders are doing their best to cater future building changes and innovations based on the feedback of Tech students.

A small development group composed solely of students, the Student Center Expansion Committee (SCEC), has been tasked with determining the most appropriate features of a new Student Center that could accommodate the needs of those who use them.

SCEC acts as a liaison for students, represented by leaders in multi-tier organizations such as SGA, SCPC, Ramblin’ Reck Club, Greek Life, multicultural groups and more.

Zola Zalesky, a third-year IE and current chair of SCEC, headed the effort for spotlighting the large majority of desired improvements from student input from campus and electronic surveys.

Top recurring requests include an increase in dedicated headquarters for student organizations, consolidated dining locations and larger essential rooms such as
the theater.

Despite good intentions, an expansion of this magnitude demands sacrifice. SCEC is considering its likeliest source of budget in a student fee increase between $25 and $75, a move that will require approval by the USG Board of Regents.

Greater space also requires the reclamation of existing space. “There’s talk of expanding the new building into the parking space between the Student Center and Flag building, as well the grassy area between Skiles and Subway,” Zalesky said.

As it stands, no ideas are off limits. Development of a new Student Center still remains a pressing yet drawn-out discussion among Institute leaders.

For students, the Student Center continues to serve as an integral resource on campus and though the exact definition of “expansion” is still murky, it may also be hopeful.