Hammond, LA – Walking through central campus at Southeastern Louisiana University becomes more and more of an obstacle every day, according to students returning for the fall semester.
Improvements to the current World War II Memorial Student Union are expected to tack on an additional 90,000 square feet and upgrade existing offices and businesses already housed inside the Union.
Current students appear less than pleased with the construction.
Jenn Rees, a marketing and business major in her senior year at Southeastern, says, “It’s frustrating to want to succeed and to have little inconveniences that turn into bigger obstacles.”
Southeastern’s Student Government Association approved the renovations and construction on campus back in 2007. This was a year before major budget cuts, which up to present have totaled $40 million lost in state funding, began to fall into place.
Senior education major Tabetha Majesty feels as if this decision should have been further reviewed in light of recent budget issues. She says, “They’re not psychic. They didn’t know that a year later, our country would be in the situation that it’s in. Nobody expected budget cuts to be what they are. No one expected a recession. But at the same time, I feel like it’s common sense…you’re making a decision five years ahead of time. You just can’t do that.”
The new union is slated to become “a central place for most student activities,” says Director of Facilities Planning Kenneth Howe. With the inclusion of the Center for Student Excellence and the University Counseling Center as well as the University Health Center, extended dining facilities and a ballroom capable of seating 1,000 occupants that can be easily divided into separate rooms and meeting areas, University President Dr. John Crain hopes that this “will draw new students to the campus.”
“I think if they had known what the situation would be like right now, they wouldn’t have done it. I feel like they should have re-evaluated and re-assessed the situation before building,” says Majesty.
The money, which is funded by self-assessed student fees and outside contributions to the University, is not the only issue students face. Four parking lots have been taken over for use in the construction project, with overflow backing into the garage of Strawberry Stadium.
“Walking to class takes me twice as long, now,” says sophomore Candice Saucedo, majoring in Elementary Education. “Parking is next to impossible for upperclassmen commuters and quite frankly, it looks as if little progress is being made. Is this really necessary?”
Rees says it isn’t. “It’s nothing against any particular individual, but as a whole I feel like all of the students are inconvenienced and there are more important things we could be focused on.”
Architects Holly & Smith, based out of Hammond, are responsible for the designs on the project. No strangers to Southeastern, they were also behind the designs for the Katrina and Rita memorial fountain as well as the recently completed Kinesiology and Health Sciences building. They are in partnership with WTW of Pittsburgh and general contractors Lincoln Builders of Baton Rouge, Inc.