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Senate looks to improve Old Union, other study spaces

The ASSU Undergraduate Senate held its first meeting of winter quarter Tuesday evening and passed a bill to institutionalize attendance records for Senate committees. The meeting also included a discussion with Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of operations and student unions, about improving Old Union for student use.

“It’s your union, not my union,” Smith-Laws said to begin the conversation, seeking input from the senators on what services they believe students want from Old Union and how to best inspire student involvement.

“How do you sustain that kind of interest?” Smith-Laws asked about seeking student input and commitment in improving the space dedicated to student use.

Several senators expressed a need for more 24-hour study spaces or a 24-hour eatery on campus, but Smith-Laws expressed concerns about profitability of an eatery and resources and security for study spaces.

“At the moment, it would be impossible to provide that kind of service,” Smith-Laws said of the possibility of all-night study areas in addition to the current spaces in Meyer Library and Tresidder.

“We have to be able to say we’re providing safe spaces for students,” she added.

Other ideas to improve the student union included new vending machines, a nail salon, a game room and a small grocery store.

Smith-Laws also raised the issue of the Wellness Room in Old Union, questioning whether it is the most efficient use of space and whether wellness can be incorporated in the space as a whole instead.

“My personal observation is it’s not used,” Nanci Howe of Student Activities and Leadership said of the Wellness Room.

The discussion culminated in a motion put forth by Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13 for the Senate to brainstorm the possibility of a “high-tech study space” for students in Old Union.

The Senate also passed a bill Tuesday aimed at increasing accountability for internal committee meeting attendance, following a censure of Ben Jensen ’12 last quarter for missing Student Life, Housing and Education committee meetings. Attendance will now be recorded centrally, though the method, most likely a Google document or the work of the Senate secretary, was not decided. The secretary will inform the committee chair if a Senator is absent three times during an academic quarter.

After hearing from student group representatives, the Senate also approved $5,400 to enable the student group SwingKids to contribute a swing room and band to this February’s Viennese Ball.

All funding bills for the evening were passed.

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