Student Union detours and renovation get mixed reactions

“It’s a big fat inconvenience.”


Abigail Gracie

(Abigail Gracie/ Amherst Wire)

AMHERST—When stepping back onto campus after a month of being in a peaceful home or on a blissful vacation, you might’ve noticed that calmness didn’t follow you back to school.

A prominent pathway in the center of the University of Massachusetts’ campus has been blocked off due to the Student Union undergoing its first renovation since opening in 1957. This has led to detours being set up for students to go around the construction.  

While these new pathways are necessary, they’ve caused annoyance among students because they’re almost half the size of the original pathway. During rush periods, when hundreds of students tried to get to a certain destination at once, the original pathway was regularly congested.

Cut the size of the walkway in half and, “it’s a big fat inconvenience,” said computer science freshman, Alex Brandl. You may be able to get to class on time if you jog.

Despite the temporary conditions, great change is on its way to the home of almost 200 registered student organizations. When first built, the Student Union supported only 4,800 students. Today, that number has grown to nearly 30,000.

“It was built in a much different era,” said Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of strategic communications and special assistant to the vice chancellor for university relations. “It’s tired.”

Abigail Gracie
(Abigail Gracie/ Amherst Wire)

In 2017, students agreed with this sentiment and voted ‘yes’ to renovate the Student Union under the Anthony Vitale administration. Along with the construction also came a $50 increase to student’s student activity fee.

“We hope the results of the project and the ways in which the new space will accommodate student needs will be well worth the investment we are making now,” said SGA president, Timmy Sullivan, in an email.

UMass Amherst became the university students know today after the construction of many different buildings in the 1960s and 1970s, including Southwest Residential Area, Hampshire Dining Commons and Berkshire Dining Commons. Since that time, there have been many updates to the campus.

There is a running joke among students that there is always construction occurring somewhere on campus. Recently, the $62 million Isenberg Business Innovation Hub was built and opened for students at the start of the spring semester. In addition to that, the Physical Sciences Building and the old Horse Barn in the north of campus both finished their construction last year. At this point in time, both the Student Union and Hasbrouck Laboratory are under construction, which makes the area feel like a maze. With a new update coming to the Worcester Dining Commons in the fall of 2020, construction can seem endless.

Some of the never-ending construction has also generated noise complaints from students.

“The reason my roommate and I live in Central this year is to try and get away from the obnoxious construction noises,” said Corey Jacobson, who lived in Northeast Residential Area his freshman year. “They loved to use the jackhammers at 7 a.m. for some reason.” 

South East Exterior Perspective of the future Student Union by architect Shepley Bulfinch

Many students, however, are waiting in anticipation to see the result of the construction, including political science and legal studies freshman, Sophie Shapiro.

“I’m excited to have the Student Union updated and I’m thankful that UMass is always working to make our campus better,” Shapiro said.

While students may have to deal with the inconvenient walkways until the fall of 2020—when the project is expected to be finished—it may be worth it to have a new space for the growing population here at UMass Amherst.

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