Student center should be inclusive, but not student-funded

By Editor-in-Chief

Columbia students gathered with administrators and representatives of Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the architecture firm that has headed the 11-week programming process for the college’s upcoming student center, for an update on plans for the facility at a Feb. 16 Student Government Association meeting.

The college community has repeatedly expressed a desire that the center be a model of “inclusion” that would unify Columbia’s highly-fragmented campus. SCB’s program mission statement envisions the center as a place for students to “gather, collaborate and explore,” which expresses what most students want.

What some question though, is whether the center can truly accommodate students of all majors, backgrounds, housing arrangements and disciplines.

SCB’s architects indicated that the need for collaborative and private spaces available to all students has been taken under consideration throughout the programming phase.

According to the architects, spaces are expected to be available for student organizations to meet and for individual students to have a safe environment for studying. Also for groups to work on interdisciplinary projects.

Whether the student center will adequately support commuter students by supplying affordable parking options, for example, appears to have received less attention.

The parking issue illustrates the importance of taking the needs of particular groups into account, which is essential if the center is to truly be all-inclusive. The inclusion of gender-neutral restrooms, for example, is something that all students can benefit from. 

It also suggests the administration is following through on the concerns of transgender and genderqueer students across campus, voiced last fall when the college rolled out its Gender Inclusive Initiative.

Having the facilities reflect students’ needs is essential but the looming question is how will the center be paid for?

Currently scheduled to be completed by the Fall 2018 Semester, the student center will soon progress in its planning to the point at which the college’s higher-ups will be evaluating how to effectively fund such a hugely important and understandably expensive project.

As reported in the article on the Front Page, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim said at the SGA meeting that funding the creation of the student center will cost somewhere around $35 million to $45 million. 

In the past, we have heard that a capital campaign for donations will be conducted to finance the center, but no details have been shared. 

With excavation underway, the Columbia community needs to know where the funds will be coming from.

While the need for a center is undeniable, its costs should not be assumed in whole or in part by students, who already face continuously increasing tuition rates. 

The student center will be an exciting addition to the college’s campus and will undoubtedly change the nature of the Columbia experience.  

Much credit is due to President Kim for being the president who finally brought the college its true student space. 

Nevertheless, the burden should be on the administration—not the students—to fund a space that most currently enrolled students will not directly benefit from.