A place to go for students

Christine Mechaca

As spring arrives here on campus and the tell-tale heat outside creeps upward, students begin to cluster indoors. They try to find a space to relax on uncomfortable benches outside the bookstore or over-crowded tables in the cafeteria. A place to lounge, relax, socialize and maybe even work on some homework – all inside one comfortable indoor area which seems like a far-off dream.

However, the college has been working on plans since 2003 to create a place to act as a service and social center for all students.

At registration, LMC students currently pay a Student Union fee of $1 per unit.

According to Vice President of Instruction and Student Services Kevin Horan, the fee generates about $90,000 annually with approximately $900,000 raised so far.

The money will eventually support the construction of a Student Union area on the grass next to Parking Lot B across from the Math building.

The future building will serve as a central facility for Student Life, with office space for student government, activities and clubs located within it, said Gail Newman, senior dean of student services.

The building would also serve as a “soft space” with planned indoor lounges and eating areas for students.

“If LMC were a house, the Student Union would be the living room,” said Director of Student Life Dave Belman, adding that the plan is “to create a place on campus for students to use as a social space where they can hang out and relax.”

2010 building plans for the facility detail various possible student lounge space, such as an activity and gathering space, a BBQ area and a new café.

While planning for the new facility is ongoing, no tentative dates for construction or opening of the building have been set and, according to Belman, the project is still one or two building phases away.

Belman explained that the amount of money made from the Student Union fee varies from year to year, and has taken a hit from recent budget cuts leading to fewer registered students paying the fee.

As a result, he said, “we are just starting to talk about different funding” for the project.

“Ultimately, the college could wait until the full amount has been collected before construction would begin. There are, however, financing options available,” said Horan.

These options for additional funding could range from grants from public and private organizations to bond issues and loans.

Although the building of a Student Union is some time away, students can still anticipate the benefits of having such a facility.

“It would be pretty cool,” said Student Ambassador Dylan Kuhlmann, adding that the building of a Student Union might give students a better idea of the services available to them, “Student Life is a great place, but a lot of students don’t know about it and not enough take advantage of the services.”

“The benefit of having a student union on campus is that we would have one central location to house our Student Life Program,” said Newman.

Currently, most student activities are scattered across campus. Student Life is housed in a portable by the ramp from the planetarium to Parking Lot A. The Honors Center works in a portable outside Level I of the College Complex. And other clubs and group sponsored activities meet in various rooms around campus.

“It is important for the college to continue to develop modern facilities that are attractive to students and enable us to provide existing and expanded services in a more efficient manner,” explained Horan.

According to the college website, all LMC students, with the exception of those receiving fee waivers or financial assistance, pay the Student Union fee of $1 per unit, to a maximum of $10 every academic year.

The fee was approved in a student-wide election held on campus in March 2003.

Out of 2,024 students participating in the election, 81 percent voted in favor of the fee — well above the needed two-thirds to approve the measure as designated by the Board of Trustees, according to a 2003 letter to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office from district General Counsel Ralph Black.