The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

University needs to embrace new era

From trees and cost, location and history, there has been no shortage of controversy surrounding UW-Eau Claire’s new student center.

The fact of the matter is this: we do need a new student center. When we were just prospective students, touring the university for the first time, we looked at the campus grounds with some fondness, met in Davies Center and decided that this is where we would earn a degree. In order to maintain this university’s appeal and attract more students in the future, the campus needs to embrace a new era. Part of that step forward includes updates to the campus.

Davies Center, as it stands, is by no means a dump. The Cabin is among the best intimate venues in the region, thanks to robust renovations it undertook last year, and there are quaint and comfortable areas to study. But Davies is dated. Anyone on campus after 8 p.m. on a Friday knows that Davies Center is no popular place to be. Deserted might be a better word. By no means does it need to be a bustling nightclub, but one look at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union shows the potential a student center can have, that it can be a desirable place for students to be, and not just in passing between classes.

Enough has already been written about the Council Oak tree, and the efforts to protect it, and coverage of the Kent State memorial trees has been extensive as well, and I applaud the lively dialogue that has arisen around the trees.

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But ultimately a balance must be struck between moving into the future and preserving the past. The students who planted the memorial trees in the ’70s couldn’t have known that the green space they used would eventually play host to a new student center. Regardless, the cause the trees represent won’t diminish because of their relocation.

It would be easy to look at capital projects such as the student center as wasteful dollars spent during harsh economic times. After all, many of us who are students will not be around to see the benefits of a new student center. Tuition hikes are in the works, and students today need to work more jobs just to pay for their education. A new student center could have been put off for a year, or two, or three, but eventually that destination would be too far out of reach.

Selecting a college is a complex and difficult decision. Academics, of course, rank highly among deciding factors, but so does the look and feel of a place. Away from the hours spent in classrooms, we have to live as a part of the campus and larger community. Part of what attracts students to come here, and stay, is the condition of the campus, so it makes sense that the flagship building of the university is its student center.

When I look back on my time spent at UW-Eau Claire, I’d like to remember it affectionately, knowing the university has an eye toward the future; that we graduated from a campus that wasn’t afraid to serve its students to the best ability and continues to attract promising students through its academics and attractive campus.

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