Campus Center Program Statement
In 1951, the Lawrence Memorial Union opened its doors, the realization of years of planning. Described by the college’s alumni magazine that summer as "colossal — gigantic — stupendous," the new building replaced the original social center established through the initiative of Olive Hamar in 1925. The Union boasted a snack bar with a soda fountain; a campus lounge with a stage area, large fireplace and panoramic view of the Fox River; a music room; a recreational area; and a space for theatre in the round. By the late 1960s however, in the face of significant growth in the student body, the building no longer accommodated all of the needs of the campus. The theatre space was converted into the Viking Room in 1969, and for a few years, a space known as the Terrace Room was used for theatrical productions. Pool tables were placed in the basement in space adjacent to the Viking Room. Some space on the main floor was dedicated to administrative offices and an office was created for the Lawrence University Community Council. In the 1980s, an Information Desk was constructed out of space in a small conference room on the main floor and the music room was converted to use as a television lounge. The Union Station convenience store opened in 1987, displacing a commuter student lounge and the LUCC office.
In 1989, the Board of Trustees discussed renovation and expansion of the Union in order to accommodate campus needs more effectively. President Warch charged the Memorial Union Program Development Committee to develop a statement outlining campus needs and proposed space utilization in a reconfigured building. The committee examined current trends in college unions and recent directions in renovation and construction. An assessment of current use and projected needs was undertaken and a master list of all potential uses was developed. The committee then ranked potential uses in priority order and clustered them into categories: campus organizational space; services; performance and activity space; lounging, social and recreational space; and other spaces. The following year, an architectural firm was selected and drawings were completed for the renovation of and addition to the Memorial Union. The reconstructed footbridge across Lawe Street was planned with this renovation in mind and several utilities were augmented in preparation for the project. Other academic needs, however, subsequently took priority and renovation was deferred.
Since that time, several areas within the Union have undergone minor renovation. The Union Grill counter was replaced and several service areas were created to provide for self-service items and better traffic patterns. Some storage issues have been addressed, but major needs remain in the kitchen, support facilities, and preparation areas. The Conference Room located behind the Information Desk was converted into an office for the Volunteer and Community Service Center. The Hamar Room (original music room and later a television lounge) was converted into an office for the associate dean of students and the alcove area in Riverview Lounge that served as a stage and performance space, was converted into additional offices for Campus Activities. A major storage area in the lower level was opened up and converted into a gameroom with video games, pinball machines, pool tables, and a television viewing area. The former powder room adjacent to the women’s restroom was converted into storage and a small dressing area was made into an office for the accountant in the Union Retail Operations area. An area was set aside for storage and an office was created which now provides work space for a part-time staff person in Campus Activities. A storage facility supporting the Viking Room was built with a walk-in cooler and the space remaining in what had been the gameroom was converted into a conference room and an office for LUCC. The most recent renovation involved converting the upper level of the Coffeehouse into a lounge area with serving counter for specialty coffees, cappuccino, etc. Mechanical systems remain as they were in the 1950s with the exception that air conditioning was installed in the Grill last year. These renovations have extended the life of the building and have enhanced its usefulness, but it is clear that since 1989 the needs of the campus have continued to grow and now overwhelm the capabilities of the present Memorial Union.
During the course of its work, it became clear to the Task Force that to improve the quality of campus residential and extra-curricular/co-curricular life at Lawrence, plans would have to be developed that integrated residential, food services and campus life program and facility needs in a holistic manner. A proposal for a new campus center forms one of the centerpieces of the Task Force’s overall strategy for enhancing residential life at Lawrence.
Visits to other colleges have informed Task Force members about ways in which campus centers and common meeting areas can have a dramatic impact on the quality of student life at residential colleges. It is clear that much of campus social life occurs during meals and at late night gatherings when students need a break from their academic pursuits. The lack of recent investment in a new or renovated campus center seems to put Lawrence at a competitive disadvantage when prospective students compare our facilities to those at other institutions, and current students report a lack of suitable formal and informal meeting space.
A well-designed campus center complements residential life and dining services, supports the educational mission of the college and provides a setting for integrating various elements of the Lawrence experience. While the student residence functions as a home base for students and provides space for sleeping, studying and living, the reality of tight quarters and competition for space with roommates and neighbors necessitates neutral space in an alternative location for social interaction and dining. Since most members of the campus community eat on a somewhat regular schedule, meals provide an opportunity for meetings and group activity, as well as personal relaxation and respite. Incorporating central campus dining in a new campus center will undoubtedly result in a campus cultural change. There will be a central location where all members of the community can come together to eat a meal, grab a snack, or read while drinking coffee. The Task Force envisions the campus center as a dynamic, inviting place characterized by heavy traffic, people lingering and enjoying conversation, informal interactions among students and other members of the community during meals, and an air of activity and energy. A new campus center offers the opportunity to create a lively gathering place for the campus community to come together, greet each other, eat together and share a common experience.
While a campus center must serve the needs of a variety of campus and community constituencies, it should remain essentially student-centered. In its 1989 report, the Memorial Union Program Development Committee identified two general perspectives as being central to its deliberations:
- The Union is and should remain essentially a student-centered facility, serving as a campus center for residential and commuting populations; meeting individual, organizational, and programmatic needs; and permitting/encouraging interaction of all members of the university community. Central to these purposes are the programmatic, service, and recreational/social functions.
- Given space and budgetary limitations, flexibility of facilities and furnishings is essential to meeting current needs and those that may arise in the future.
The Task Force reaffirms these conclusions. A campus center should focus on student programmatic, recreational and service functions while also promoting interaction and meeting individual and campus organizational needs. A center should be designed to be flexible in order to better meet a broad range of needs now and in the future. In addition, space and facilities should be available to all students on an equitable basis and should enhance social opportunities for all Lawrentians.
The following characteristics and features should figure prominently in the planning and design of a new campus center:
- Ambiance -- Warmth, intimacy and a casual ambiance should be created in a new facility, with attention to matters of scale, construction materials, color schemes and furnishings that provide for a warm, inviting and comfortable atmosphere.
- Crossroads -- The facility should become the figurative "crossroads" of the campus, i.e., facilities and services located within the facility should encourage and promote natural interaction and frequent use not only among students, but also among faculty, staff, and others as well.
- Inviting and Inclusive -- A campus center must be inviting and inclusive, a setting in which everyone feels and is welcome.
- Focal Point for Campus Life -- A campus center should support the academic program and give voice to the quality, richness and variety of the Lawrence experience. It should strengthen a sense of community on campus.
- Wellness Promotion -- Facilities should contribute to the health and well-being of campus constituents, providing space for relaxation, social interaction, educational enrichment, reflection and study. In a sense, the programs and facilities of a campus center should promote balance in the lives of members of the campus community.
- One-Stop-Shop -- A campus center should serve as a home to those service functions central to student life, providing students with a measure of "one-stop-shopping."
- Administrative Services -- Various administrative offices, which might benefit students and administrative functioning, could be located in the campus center. The location of administrative offices and other services should not diminish space dedicated to students for campus clubs and organizations, programming, social interaction, and relaxation.
The Task Force proposes the inclusion of the following facilities and spaces within a new campus center in order to meet the needs of the campus community in a more effective manner. While the Task Force considers many of these items to be essential elements in a new campus center, it recognizes that some needs might have to be addressed in other facilities or settings on campus.
The Task Force believes that an important relationship exists between the goals and purposes of a campus center and the services provided by Food Services. On most campuses visited by the Task Force, new or planned campus center facilities include general campus food services operations. These facilities support interaction and regular use of campus center facilities, seem to go hand in hand with centralized mail facilities and other services for students, and provide a setting for programs and meetings outside the food service schedule. A new campus center should either be physically linked to a renovated Downer Commons or should include Food Services within the center, provided that other essential facilities are not sacrificed in favor of food services space. An architect or consultant could interpret campus needs and program statements vis-à-vis Downer Commons and a new campus center, to provide some direction. Whether incorporated in a new campus center or in renovated space, Food Services facilities should be constructed with flexibility in mind to permit changes as food tastes, delivery styles and campus needs change. Centralized food preparation and storage facilities would serve retail operations as well as Food Services, and staff could be more easily cross-trained to serve in a variety of settings. Loading dock facilities could serve both Food Services and campus center needs limiting the intrusion of truck traffic on campus. Existing facilities could be utilized until new facilities are constructed and then renovated for other purposes including meeting and programming space, administrative offices, etc.
- Campus Dining Room(s). Dining areas should be pleasant, flexible, and should promote interaction.
- Servery. A serving area utilizing state-of-the-art technology, preparation and serving platforms and a scatter system would aid the flow of traffic, enhance aesthetics, improve food storage and serving, and enable greater awareness of the variety of food choices presented. A servery should be located centrally to serve main dining areas as well as small dining and meeting rooms, and recreational areas.
The Student Opinion Survey overwhelmingly suggests the importance of inclusion of a variety of retail operations within a campus center. A grill, cafeteria or snack bar operation was identified as the most essential component of a campus center, with a coffeehouse and bookstore following closely. A campus pub also garnered support, but to a lesser degree. It is not surprising that these operations received high marks. The management and staff have invested significant creativity, industry know-how and effort to transform these spaces in recent years, augmenting menu choices, listening and responding to customer suggestions, and tailoring services to meet the needs of the campus. Students increasingly select meal plans that include options for service in the Union. Union Retail Operations have posted significant annual gains in business for several years, reflecting their popularity and ability to target student needs.
- Grill/Snack Bar. A snack bar facility providing enhanced grill service, grab and go items, luncheon (and perhaps dinner) specials, healthy meal options, beverages and other food choices at convenient times is essential to the operation of a campus center. Facilities should be constructed to support efficient staffing patterns, food preparation and storage, and front of house preparation and delivery to patrons. Seating should promote informal discussion and natural social groupings in a range of settings, providing quiet for some and a livelier atmosphere for others. Some space within this area or the Coffeehouse setting could be dedicated for use as a "cyber café."
- Coffeehouse. A second service area in a more intimate setting is important. This facility should provide upscale beverage and bakery items, high-end service and a limited menu. The ability to provide a limited menu lends flexibility as it permits efficient use of staff resources to provide service when business demands render other food service operations too costly to operate. Lawrence has a long history of performance in a coffeehouse setting and the current Coffeehouse is widely identified among Lawrentians as an important and successful setting for performance. A space duplicating the ambiance and intimacy of the present Coffeehouse with a "permanent" stage and accommodating 150-200 at café tables should be located adjacent to the coffeehouse service counter/operation. The service counter should be designed in such a way that the noise associated with food production does not interfere with performances.
- Convenience Store. Given the isolation of the campus from other retail operations and the schedules of most students that prohibit shopping during normal business hours, the operation of a campus convenience store remains essential. The store should continue to support the academic program through sales of art supplies and other materials; indeed, it should be the primary outlet for Lawrence retail sales. It should also carry a variety of Lawrence affinity items including clothing, gifts, novelty items, etc. It should continue to sell toiletries and health products, basic food items, snacks, groceries and other items.
- Campus Pub. Although this area was less important to current students completing the Task Force survey, it remains an important fixture on the campus, particularly to alumni. The Task Force recommends maintaining a license for the sale of alcoholic beverages, whether or not a pub is created, to support catering functions and special events. A campus pub should provide a much more intimate atmosphere than the current Viking Room, and should be adjacent to programming and recreational space.
- Vending Operations. After hours, there is no current location within the Union or adjacent buildings where a student can purchase snack or beverage items. These needs could be accommodated through vending machines located centrally, and would be most useful within that space made available 24-hours.
- Bookstore. Although Lawrence enjoys a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Conkey’s Bookstore, the Task Force suggests that space be allocated within a campus center for future use as a bookstore or book outlet. The space could be contracted out to Conkey’s or some other company or self-operated. In the near term, it could be used for meeting space, storage, lounge space or other campus services.
Provision of space for campus organizations is one of the highest priorities for a new campus center. This need was clearly articulated by the Memorial Union Program Development Committee in 1989, and since then the number of campus organizations has increased and the amount of underutilized space in residence halls and other buildings has further diminished. A recent survey of campus organizations indicates that workspace and storage of records and materials are high priorities. Meeting space is also in demand and the Task Force believes that appropriate space should be centrally located in the campus center.
- Organizational Workroom. A central workspace for campus organizations is essential in promoting efficient use of student time. It can also promote interaction between and among campus organizations and provide ready access to staff resources and support systems. A workroom should include lounge space; desk space with access to telephones, computer equipment and office supplies; table space for project layout and preparation, publicity materials, etc.; cabinet, closet and file storage facilities. Telephones should provide distribution lists for all campus organizations, permit voice messaging, and long distance service. Campus organizations have need to access computers for much of their work. This is particularly true of campus publications. Facilities supporting publications, word processing, graphic design and the development of marketing materials, maintenance of organization web pages, etc. should be included. Other services within this space might include bulletin boards, a campus planning calendar, copy machines, fax machine, scanners and printers, and organization mailboxes. Facilities should be provided for listening to or viewing recorded materials for training, program planning and relaxation.
- Conference Room. One or more conference rooms should be adjacent to the organizational workroom to permit meetings of officers, planning sessions, etc. They may also serve as meeting spaces for smaller organizations.
- Individual Organization Offices. While most organizations need only work and storage space, several organizations require dedicated space. Organizations may require dedicated space due to the nature of their work, a need for ready access to equipment or resource materials, frequency of utilization, or other reasons. The Task Force recognizes that equitable allocation of dedicated space is important and affirms that no organization should lay permanent claim to dedicated space. Currently, organizations with dedicated space on campus include LUCC, the Lawrentian, Tropos, the Ariel, and the Outdoor Recreation Club. Most campus centers include dedicated office space for a program board and Greek governing bodies, multicultural organizations, and service organizations. At Lawrence, various organizations require dedicated space at times in their history. The Task Force recommends the inclusion of eight to ten dedicated office spaces for student organizations, with a process to be developed for the allocation of these spaces.
- Diversity Center. While the general organizational space identified above would serve diversity and multicultural organizations as well as other organizations, locating the Diversity Center within a campus center could increase visibility for center programs and services. The Diversity Center would be in a position to support campus center educational initiatives for tolerance and understanding. It would also place the Diversity Center and its staff in a position to interact with and support the work of other student organizations and various campus-wide programs and services.
- Campus Organization Resources Library. A resource room or space within the workroom is essential for the storage and filing of audio-visual and print resources. These materials include books, pamphlets and files on leadership and organizational development, program planning, marketing, etc. Demonstration videos, compact discs and cassettes as well as literature on performers and others could be filed in such a library to support the program planning processes on campus.
- Meeting Rooms. Meeting space must be available for groups of various sizes with a variety of needs. Furnishings should permit seminar/conference room set-up, lecture seating, etc. A survey of campus organizations revealed that 36 groups meet weekly on campus, several meet more than once a week, and another 14 groups meet bi-weekly or periodically. While many of these meetings are currently held in other locations, the Task Force believes that a campus center should be capable of accommodating them, thereby increasing use of the facility as a gathering space at the center of campus life. Increased traffic could promote stronger interaction among student organizations and would provide greater visibility.
- Darkroom. A darkroom space is necessary for the operation of several campus publications. If built with thought, it could also serve the greater campus community. Currently, there are no "public" darkrooms on campus for student use. The darkroom in the Art Center is reserved for the use of photography students. A small darkroom is located within the campus media offices area above the Physical Plant, and it is occasionally made available to other students by special arrangement. Space would not have to be dedicated solely for darkroom use so long as the facilities, lighting and ventilation capabilities could be included in a space available for multiple purposes.
- WLFM Studios. Relocation of WLFM to a campus center would increase the visibility of the operation and would enable easier supervision if it continues essentially as a student activity.
Social, Recreational and Study Space
- Campus Lounge Space. Riverview Lounge has served as a central location for relaxation, study and conversation. In many ways, it embodies the time-honored concept of the student union as the "living room" of the campus. While a lounge could serve as a location for receptions and other meetings and functions, converting Riverview Lounge for these purposes and displacing those who simply want to sit and relax has proven difficult in the current Union. It is essential that a campus center include both formal and informal lounge space dedicated for that purpose.
- Recreation or Gameroom Space. A campus center should include spaces dedicated to recreation, including billiards, ping pong and other table games, video and pinball machines, darts, board games, etc. An audio listening center would provide background music for other activities or permit students to listen to music of their own choosing. Television viewing is also important to students, and while the campus may one day consider the installation of cable television in student rooms, there is much to be said for the shared experience of watching programs, catching up on news and viewing special and significant events in the company of others. These functions compete with one another due to noise and various activity levels, so space should be configured to minimize competition and interference. However, students would also benefit from coming together in a central space for these activities as the opportunity for interaction and the range of recreational choices available would increase for the participant.
- Private Dining/Meeting Rooms. Several small dining rooms for private group dining, meetings and other uses where food might be required should be located adjacent to food service areas. These spaces need to be configured to provide access within whatever security systems are appropriate for food services, yet should also be accessible at times other than during meals to enable their use as meeting spaces.
- Dining/Entertaining Suite. A fully equipped kitchen with adjacent dining and lounge space which could be reserved for use by individuals or groups for meal preparation, entertaining and relaxation should be included in a campus center. Such a space might serve a variety of purposes. It would enable students to entertain as adults. It could permit groups without common cooking and eating facilities to share meals and fellowship from time to time. It would also serve as an area to entertain campus performers and other guests requiring meals, and the kitchen could serve as a preparation and serving area for receptions and other catered functions.
- 24-Hour Study Space. It is clear from the Task Force survey that students would favor the inclusion of 24-hour study space in a campus center. It is also clear that use of computers is essential for research, study, writing and communication on campus. Combining study and computer space in the campus center would alleviate any sense of territoriality felt by students in residentially-based study and computer spaces, and would provide for increased security during late night hours.
- Reflective Space. Some space on campus should be set aside for quiet contemplation, meditation and personal reflection. Such a space could support the spiritual and emotional wellness of our campus, and serve as a location for ecumenical and other religious activity by various campus organizations.
- Smoking Lounge. So long as university policies permit smoking in designated indoor areas on campus, consideration should be given to accommodate within the campus center those who chose to smoke tobacco products. If included, a smoking lounge must provide air filtration and should permit circulation of air independent of the rest of the building. Such a lounge space should provide comfortable seating, a television viewing area, and space for quiet study. The Task Force also recognizes the desire of some groups to hold meetings in locations where smoking is permitted, and suggests that the feasibility of including meeting space with similar air handling capabilities (perhaps adjacent to the lounge area) be explored.
Programming spaces should be designed with several thoughts in mind. First and foremost, they should be flexible. Those facilities not dedicated for specific purposes could be utilized for various programs, as banquet and dining facilities, meeting rooms or classroom space. While most programs held on campus do not require large spaces, flexible/moveable wall construction within at least some of the programming space would permit occasional use for larger functions.
- Multipurpose Room. A large room with a high ceiling and unobstructed view is essential for campus programming. This room must accommodate portable staging, sound reinforcement and specialty (theatre) lighting, and should be flexible to be set up in different configurations. This room should replace the Recreation Center Gym as a large banquet space, accommodating 400-600 at tables, and perhaps 600-750 in seated rows for concerts and large performances. The room should be divisible with rigid wall sections to provide alternate smaller spaces for programming, meetings, etc.
- Coffeehouse. See "Retail Operations" above.
- Theatre/Lecture Hall. A lecture hall with raked seating and a stage area can support smaller stage performances, lectures, film and slide programs and group assembly meetings. Seating should accommodate 300-400 and seats should include writing tablets and be both comfortable and durable.
- Dressing Space. To accommodate performers, lecturers, etc., a green room with adjacent shower and bathroom facilities and separate changing facilities for men and women should be located within close proximity to performance spaces.
- Preparation/Storage Space. Adjacent to programming spaces should be appropriate preparation space "off stage" with storage sufficient to store sound reinforcement, staging, lighting and furnishings to support these areas.
- Gallery/Exhibition/Display Space. Many campus centers provide dedicated gallery space. Such space would permit greater display of student work and would enable educational displays centered on various themes. A dedicated space would enable greater security and focus, while an alternative would be to utilize wall and lobby space throughout the building for such displays.
Services and Administrative Offices
- Information Desk. The campus information desk has become an essential service for most Lawrence students. An information desk must include sufficient space and technological support to meet the expectations of students, faculty and staff. It should also serve as a central clearinghouse for campus and community information, as a welcome center and referral resource to visitors, and as a security checkpoint for campus center security and facilities access.
- Postal Station and Mail Services. The 1989 report suggested inclusion of central mail delivery for all students in a renovated campus center. Although students on campus today may not fully understand the value of centralizing mail services, most campuses visited by the Task Force operate on that model, and some include central services for faculty and staff as well. Central mail services would provide an opportunity for the community to gather regularly, and if coupled with casual lounge facilities as noted at St. Olaf College in particular, should stimulate interaction. Such a center would facilitate the distribution of notices and postings. Moreover, it would provide security for personal mail, particularly to those students residing in small houses and fraternity houses where locked mailboxes do not exist. Mail delivery for commuters, campus organizations and others would also be possible in this setting. Weighing and sending letters and packages, UPS and Federal Express services, stamp sales and other services could be centralized in this location.
- Campus Activities Office. The staff and offices of Campus Activities should be located within the campus center, both to support and facilitate student activities and organizations, and to provide operational support for campus center facilities.
- Volunteer and Community Service Center. While this staff and center could reasonably be located in other settings, the importance of interaction with other student organizations and the value of increased visibility if located within the campus center suggest that such a location is important.
- Diversity Center. See "Campus Organizations" above.
- Additional Administrative Offices. Many campuses locate additional student affairs and business-related offices within a campus center for ease of access and to facilitate student interaction. While the Task Force is not advocating the relocation of offices to the campus center, it is worth consideration if offices directly serve student needs. At times, students are required to seek information from or conduct business with several offices as they address a particular matter or concern. Further study would be required to determine departmental and student interest in and the advantages of relocating any offices to the campus center. Examples of offices included in campus centers on other campuses include the following:
- Residential Life
- Dean of Students Office
- Career Center
- Writing Lab/College Place or other Academic Support Services
- Campus Security
- Food Services Office/ID Card System (if located within the campus center)
- Cashier (Business Office) -- note, with technological support and training, those functions most required by students through the cashier's office could be handled remotely by the Information Desk or Campus Activities Office.
- Campus Services (telecommunications, vehicle registration and use in particular)
- Public Events
- Box Office
- International Student Services
- Computer Services Helpdesk, Instructional Technology, etc.
Campus and Public Access. Accessibility is a central concern in any new construction. The building must be accessible from the street for deliveries, service, trash and recycling removal. It must also be accessible to both the campus and larger community as it welcomes patrons and visitors. Door openings, hallways and ceiling height should be sufficient to accommodate moving equipment and materials in for programs and activities. Within the building, accessibility for people with various disabilities is essential.
Building Security. Security is also a concern. Ideally, the building would provide areas where 24-hour access would be possible without providing open access throughout. Exterior entrances to some spaces would provide access to specific facilities (retail operations, study space, organizational space) while the building is closed.
Lighting and Ambiance. Light is an important consideration in the campus center. The building should be warm and inviting. Proper lighting after dark is essential for a sense of safety and security. Flexible lighting should be built into spaces to accommodate studying, social receptions, performance and other uses. Natural light is also important, particularly in the winter, and an atrium or other spaces that draw in daylight should be created. While it seems a trend in modern building construction to build contained environments with air handling and circulation systems, consideration should be given to providing fresh air and easy access to the outside within a new campus center.