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One year later: Was the Union worth it?

Kayla Byler / Lantern photographer

In its first year, the Ohio Union has hosted about 17,500 events in the building. Of those events, 75 percent have been specifically for student organizations, said Eve Esch, assistant director at the Union.

The $118 million building has hosted events for almost 600 student organizations, and many of those organizations gathered Tuesday to celebrate its one-year anniversary.

“The one-year anniversary officially happened at noon. We had a countdown and replica cake,” Esch said. “Every hour we have been singing ‘Happy birthday.’ We’ve just had all sorts of activities.”

Kurtis Foriska, associate director of marketing at the Union, said the Union averages 61 events per day.

“I would say that we are maximizing pretty well,” Foriska said. “We would love to engage every student organization at the Union.”

The event was focused around one giant hug of the building, which began at 4 p.m. A giant cake, designed to look like the Union, was given to students and OSU community members throughout the day.

The cost for Tuesday’s activities was not immediately available from David Wiseley, associate director of business services at the Union.

President E. Gordon Gee spoke to The Lantern about his thoughts on the Union during its first year.

“When I want to meet someone, I say meet by the Brutus in the Union. That has become very much, in a very short period of time, a center of university life in so many ways,” Gee said.

Undergraduate Student Government president Micah Kamrass said the Union is focused on the students.

“The Union has been incredibly helpful to USG and I think really to the student body in general, particularly those involved in student organizations,” Kamrass said. “Also, the resource room is a tremendously valuable asset for student organizations.”

Kamrass also spoke about the importance of the Union for various student organizations.

“The building is a great place to have events. We’ve had so many of our USG events … there, and so many other events on campus have been there as well,” Kamrass said. “Nothing is perfect, and the opportunity we have now is for students to give their feedback on the Union, to improve it and make it better.”

Foriska said with the addition of the Center for Student Leadership and Service rooms, something that was not in the previous union, there is more space for students to meet and study. He said students transform some of the areas they use to study to meet their needs.

“During finals week, our building turns into a giant study lounge, our rooms are converted into study tables which students can use for studying,” Foriska said.

Some students said a year later, there is still a lot to discover in the Union.

“I feel like there’s a lot of resources out there that I haven’t really utilized in the union,” said Katie Smith, a first-year in chemistry. “I was there with a friend in a study area they have and I didn’t even know it existed, and I feel as a freshman I’m still finding new things about OSU in general.”

Tracy Stuck, the director of Ohio Union & student activities, said the Union yields opportunity for students.

“The thing we’re most excited about is that people just use (the Union), and whether you’re involved or not, you can use it to study here, you can eat here, you can have a student organization meeting,” Stuck said. “So really, anything you want to do you can do here.”

Events at the Union range from weekly meetings for various student organizations, room dedication ceremonies, celebrity appearances and a flash mob that went viral last year.

“The intent of the flash mob was not for it to go viral, but it was kind of cool how it worked out that way. The intent was for it to be taped and shown to others who were not able to be at the event,” Foriska said. “And the intent of the hug today is not to go viral, but the Union has a lot of friends who are not able to be here today.”

Foriska said taping the event gives the Union a chance to share the experience with alumni and other OSU community members not at the actual event.

Esch said the student union fee, which is $51 dollars per quarter, goes toward paying off the actual cost of the bonds used to build the building.

“None of the money from the student union fee goes toward operational costs,” Esch said.

The fees accounted for $90.4 million of the building costs, said Esch. Private donations and sponsorships will cover additional costs.

“It’s been amazing, I almost can’t believe it has been a year, but we’ve learned so much, both as a staff, as well as teaching the students on how to use this facility,” Esch said. “I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.”

 

Harry Locke contributed to this story.

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