Empty spaces in Student Union raise questions


Two years after Dillard’s Student Union opened, some spaces still remain unoccupied, generating student complaints.

Officials say the building and its activities are a work in progress while some students apparently are questioning the lack of amenities, its layout and even its location.

The building, constructed after Hurricane Katrina, opened in spring 2011, according to Peter Stevenson, director of Student Recreation, Health and Wellness. It houses the health center, student government offices, along with a game room and gym that are in use. However, its movie theater and bowling alley, while complete, have been open only sporadically in the past two years. Both are closed at present.

Additionally, two additional spaces are empty. On the first floor is an eating area, in which last spring students could purchase snacks and drinks. On the second floor is a second empty space in an area designed for general use. 

Keith McKendall, assistant vice president of Facilities Management, said part of the issue is a change in direction on how the building is used and the fact that the building itself is not 100 percent complete.

“The original plans have changed since the original construction of the building,” said McKendall. He said the initial aim was to have leaseholders occupy sections of the building to provide services, but then the university decided to go in a different direction, much like the student unions on Tulane and Xavier’s campuses.

The space on the first floor was designed to be a food court. Under Sodexo, the food court would have housed different vendors, such as some sort of wingery, pizza place or healthy food options. McKendall said he is not involved in those negotiations.

McKendall said the administration decided to move forward with occupancy knowing the building wasn’t complete. However, he said, the eventual goal is to have planned activities and auxiliary services.

Ava Davis, a sophomore public health major from Atlanta, said she uses the gym and has a work-study job there, but the union is “quiet and dull.” She said the union should have more activities, games and/or restaurants; such as Starbucks and Chik-Fil-A.

“If there were more Greek step shows and activities, there would be more of the student body in the union,” said Davis.

 Davis said Kearny remains the place where most students hang out, but conceded that the addition of pool tables and television is generating more student interest.

“Since more things have been added, such as the pool table, more students are starting to know about the student union.”

Christy Shallerhorn, administrative assistant of Student Health and Wellness, said the director is working on promoting the union, but she suggested the building is too compartmentalized. She said students complain about the building’s location and not having enough activities available there.

“When viewing other campuses, the student union is more open for eating and hanging out. Our student union seems to be a space that caters more to having meetings and not so much recreation,” she said.

McKendall did not provide a date when the building would be complete, only commenting that it would be relatively soon.

“The students were promised a Student Union. Once the building is completed, you’ll have a reason to go there,” he said.