Extreme Makeover, UC-style

At 16, you get your driver’s license. At 18, you’re legal. At 21, you can throw out the fake ID. At 30, you start to feel old. And at 40, you get a facelift-that is, if you’re talking about the Whitten University Center.

The UC, as the building is called by the UM community, celebrates its 40th anniversary since the ribbon was first cut on April 22, 1965. The edifice was constructed to be the hub of all student activity at the UM. It is home to lounges for students, an outdoor pool for recreational use and athletic teams, a patio where speakers and musical performances can be enjoyed and offices to a number of student organizations.

“The UC is geographically the center of the campus and a crossroads for students,” Dan Westbrook, director of the UC, said. “Everyone uses the UC at some point, whether it is the swim team, or for SalsaCraze practice, or where the football players relax and watch TV.”

The UC is ready for a makeover that would involve updates and expansions to better meet the needs of the growing University community. With more than 200 student organizations, there is a need for more space and meeting facilities to accommodate them and allow for groups to be as productive as possible.

Among the ideas include a four-story building with meeting space, a new student media center, new spaces for student organizations, lots of lounge space and retail space overlooking Lake Osceola.

According to Dr. Pat Whitely, vice president of Student Affairs, the new UC will be funded in a two-part process. The first part is a fundraising campaign led by President Shalala.

“The second part is looking at a Student Activities Center referendum, very much like the Wellness Center referendum in 1992,” Dr. Whitely said.

Students will be asked to vote on whether or not they want to raise their Student Activity Fee to fund the renovations. A 16-member referendum committee, made up of undergraduate, graduate and law students, will meet with the administration on May 2 to look at the planning process.

Ideally, at the start of the Fall 2005 semester, there will be several architectural models for students to view and give feedback on. The goal will be to gather student opinions and decide what students want to see and what is feasible within the structural limitations of the current building.

“Some of the ideas that we are considering include an area for dance performance groups to practice, changes to the patio that would integrate more of the pool, an expanded convenience store and outside entrances for a student media center and the pool so that students can access these areas later than the normal operating hours,” Westbrook said.

Students will have the opportunity to celebrate the UC as is this Thursday in the UC Lower Lounge. It will be open to students who wish to look at old photos and articles of the UC through the years.

As far as costs are concerned for the intended renovations, the plan is still in the estimates stage.

“It will not be cheap,” Dr. Whitely said. “It’s a great vision and a great goal to have and we are excited about the possibilities.”

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at s.arnold@umiami.edu.