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March 18, 2002

Student Union opens at Quarry Plaza

By Louise Donahue

Quarry Plaza has a new place for undergraduate students to go: the Student Union.

The changeover has transformed the dark-wood buildings vacated by the Whole Earth Restaurant and the Bay Tree Bookstore into light and airy spaces accented with glistening pecan-wood floors and light-colored walls.

Students take a break at the new Student Union in Quarry Plaza, top photo. Student Union Governance Board chairman Brody Day sits at one of the Union's computer terminals, center photo. Below, the former Whole Earth Restaurant has been repainted and its floors refinished. Photos: Louise Donahue
The Student Union is set up in the former Bay Tree Bookstore building as a multipurpose lounge, with computers in one corner, and a large TV with Nintendo games at the other end of the open room. New lighting contributes to the bright look, and couches offer the opportunity to relax or read between classes.

On a recent afternoon, students were studying and using the computers. (Cable service hadn't yet arrived, so the TV was silent.)

"It's truly gone through a metamorphosis, and we've only just begun," said John Holloway, executive director of Student Development and Community Services.

Additional student space for the Bike Co-op, special events, and other uses to be decided later will be provided in the old Whole Earth Restaurant building, also known as the Redwood Building.

Student Union Governance Board chairman Brody Day, who has been on the board throughout his four years at UCSC, is glad to see the Union open. "I think it's going to be a great student place." A grand opening of the buildings is planned for spring quarter.

Day was among students and Student Affairs staffers who visited student unions in the United States and Canada for ideas that could be used at the UCSC facility.

The new Student Union replaces the Student Center, located between the Baskin Visual Arts Center and the Music Center, which has been used since the 1989-1990 school year. The out-of-the-way location kept the center from being fully utilized, and when the Bay Tree Bookstore and Whole Earth Restaurant moved into new buildings this summer, it offered an opportunity for the undergraduates' facility to move to a central location.

Day sees great possibilities in the move from the Student Center. "I think the potential here is exponentially greater," he said, citing plans for more and better events. "I just think that it's an exciting time to be a student here. I was getting worried that I'd leave before it opened."

"The location makes a lot of sense," said Tara Crowley, campus student centers director. Students "really like the space," she said, noting that current students are not accustomed to the new location and have visited in small numbers so far. "We're having many nighttime activities here spring quarter, and that's going to get students used to having this community space." Reservations to use the Upper Quarry Amphitheater, Redwood Building, and Union may be made by calling the Union at (831) 459-3167.

While the main floor is already being used, more work needs to be done before student organizations can move into their spaces on the upper floor. Fire codes required an additional stairway, and the Americans with Disabilities Act called for accessible bathrooms.

"We're trying to maximize our space," said Robert Fukumoto, a voting member on the Student Union Governance Board. "We're switching to a more centralized location but in a less modern building," he said. The space crunch has been complicated by the growth in the number of students and the increasing number of student organizations. Student organizations are due to make the move from the Student Center this summer.

Funding for the move and building upgrades came from Student Life Facility fees, which students pay quarterly to support the Union and OPERS' facilities. A reserve fund exists for major projects, and each year OPERS and the Student Union Governance Board may apply to that fund.

The Student Center is being renamed the Academic Support Services Building, and will house the Educational Opportunity Programs, including the Learning Center.

While the Student Union is open for business and special events are being planned for the Redwood Building, a few issues remain to be decided. Some student organizations would like to have offices in the Redwood Building, so the mix of uses for that building will have to be decided by the Student Union Governance Board. Fukumoto said he hoped a decision is made on the space issue by the middle of spring quarter.

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