Activity Groups Feel a Space Crunch

Andrea Cox/Stanford Daily

As of June, the Fleet Street Singers were homeless. They had to move out of the dorm basement room where they’d held meetings, bumped their heads on low-hanging pipes and listened to the sounds of flushing toilets for the past five years.

“I operated under the assumption that somewhere on this humongous campus there was a closet that someone wasn’t using,” says business manager Matan Shacham, ’05. “I’m not sure that’s true anymore.”

At the Black Community Services Center, the 10 student staff have to work rotating schedules because the computer cluster is cramped. Meetings of more than 15 students have to be scheduled at El Centro Chicano or Ujamaa, the African-American theme house. A student-led proposal to expand the center to 2,500 square feet has been approved by the University, but $1 million will have to be raised from donors before construction can begin.

All across campus, many of Stanford’s 600-plus student groups are having similar problems finding space. Performing arts troupes rehearse in a one-room trailer on the Knoll that leaks and has little heat. Windsurfing and kayaking groups are storing gear in student cars. Many organizations make do by reserving whatever meeting room is available on any given day. “If you’re an a cappella group, it’s not that problematic,” says Nanci Howe, assistant dean of students and director of student activities. “But if you’re a drama group needing to block out scenes, having to move from space to space isn’t particularly helpful.”

Vice provost for student affairs Gene Awakuni says he was “really appalled” at the space situation when he arrived on campus in January 2002. He has since convened a student activity space task force, which has developed a master plan. First up: reclaim Old Union for use by student organizations (the Office of Undergraduate Admission and the Financial Aid Office will move to the Bakewell building on Galvez Street). Next, turn White Plaza into a dynamic town square that serves as the hub of student activity, and revamp Tresidder Union (including new food vendors).

The University has approved the task force’s recommendations, which will require raising $20 million to $30 million and could take 10 years to complete. “But there’s never been a master plan that looked at the central campus space,” Awakuni says. Or one that held out the possibility of warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the student union.