When students returned to campus in January, they realized something was different about Suite 300 in Hughes-Trigg Student Center. The chairs were in their places, the doors were open, but the popular student Sign Room was no longer in its spot in Room 327.
The door was locked with a note stating: “All Sign-Room Materials have been relocated to the main level of the Student Center.”
Richard Owens, director of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center, said that the Sign Room was relocated due to recommendations from Facility Services, Risk Management, and the University Park Fire Marshall, who all stated the site needed to move to an area with better ventilation.
“The original sign room had little to no ventilation, which caused a build-up of fumes that were unpleasant, and at times toxic to breathe,” Owens said. “The back dock/service area was determined to be the best location to alleviate the health and safety concerns while still maintaining the availability of the sign room materials.”
The new Sign Room is located on the first floor of Hughes-Trigg, toward the back of the house where the after hours entrance and exit for the center is.
Students understand the reasons for the move, but are frustrated they were not contacted first. Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios is disappointed the Student Senate was not involved in the conversation about the health concerns and possible move.
“They did it without the student body president and without the student governing board,” Trespalacios said.
According to Trespalacios, the room was historically built as a Sign Room for students to use for promoting events and organizations throughout the campus.
Nohemi Mora, junior and president of College Hispanic American Students (CHAS), used the new Sign Room for the first time this past week. She understands the reasons for the move, but wishes there was a simpler way to organize working and accessing materials.
“It is a little bit inconvenient because we have to contact the building manager to get access and get supplies and stuff,” Mora said. “And now we have to work on the floor.”
Materials must now be checked out with and SMU ID from the Staff Offices during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. students must contact the building manager. Before, all materials were located in one central area, but were not accessible at all times.
“The sign room materials are now available whenever the building is open vs. the former sign room, which was only open during weekday business hours,” Owens said.
Students appreciate this change because they can work at all hours of the day and night. Members of CHAS already took advantage of this change by working late Thursday night.
However, despite this change, students wish they still had a space or room to hold their work while they are gone. Jackie Romero, senior and vice president of CHAS, wishes there was another space for them to go.
“I wish they had made another room for it,” she said. “You could start, leave it there and come back and finish later.”
Romero and Mora suggested placing shelves in the new Sign Room location so they could leave their work and return later. Mora said the shelves would help them stay out of the way of maintenance workers while they are working. They also suggested adding a table to the area so students would not have to work on the floor.
The Sign Room’s move stirred up other concerns for SMU students like Trespalacios, who worry that the Student Center is becoming less centered to serving students.
“The student center is the only place we have,” he said.
For this reason, Trespalacios and other members of the Student Senate are writing legislation to move the Sign Room back to its original location. They are also working on gaining student support for a possible renovation to the student center.
“This is the first time students are coming together to begin legislation to start the renovation of a building,” Trespalacios said.
Faculty and staff are on board with this possible renovation and created a Student Center Task Force, composed of student leaders and Student Affairs professionals, to address student concerns and research the renovations.
“Renovating or building a new student center is an incredibly complex process,” Owens said.
According to Owens, the Task Force has visited Student Centers around the country and is gathering information to make a proposal, Owens said.
“The Student Center task Force will be presenting to the Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee in February, we hope this will move the beginning of a new student center closer,” said Executive Director of Student Development and Programs Jennifer Jones.
At this time there is not an established date for a renovation.
Students with concerns or ideas about how to make the student center better are welcome to speak with Owens.