The Transformation of the Student Union

Cathy Sterling reflects on what she saw as the shift of the student union from being a group of students run and supported by themselves to being a building on campus supported by student fees collected by Student Affairs.

Interview on 2010-10-21


00:00:00.000 The student union when it started here was just a truly student union.
00:00:04.599 A group of students got together and said, hey, how about we try this,
00:00:08.631 and for the longest time it ran itself.
00:00:14.488 The students made the decisions about the money. It was truly a student organization
00:00:19.578 and "student union" didn't mean a building.
00:00:23.678 It was a student union.
00:00:26.060 It was unionizing students.
00:00:28.441 Whether there was a majority of students ever involved or not I don't know,
00:00:32.621 but I do know that where the money goes
00:00:35.566 is where people are going to get interested.
00:00:38.755 Over time--
00:00:42.870 and I talk about it in the report.
00:00:45.337 I think I document it but I can't swear to it now.
00:00:48.256 But it had gone from students running it
00:00:51.588 to becoming a building.
00:00:54.306 All the money was collected by student affairs.
00:00:57.631 The administration slowly but surely
00:01:02.161 took it over completely and
00:01:05.213 one of the places that it was
00:01:09.516 shocking when I was there,
00:01:11.521 when people got it, was Friends of the College.
00:01:14.090 Friends of the College, wonderful organization, no doubt about that,
00:01:18.528 but it got a huge chunk of that money to support it,
00:01:24.922 in addition of course to tickets and things like that, but who made that decision?
00:01:29.405 Who made that decision? That was a question: Who made that decision?
00:01:33.757 So somehow it ended up that the student government got to use the building,
00:01:39.033 we had offices, the student senate could meet there,
00:01:41.711 of course student organizations could meet there and things,
00:01:44.338 but we no longer operated it.
00:01:45.841 The students no longer operated any of it,
00:01:49.035 and not only that, there were decisions being made about the money that weren't even
00:01:53.492 necessarily connected to the union itself,
00:01:56.182 to the building, to the running of the building,
00:01:58.209 to the running of the programs that were there.
00:02:00.621 Friends of the College was a perfect example.
00:02:03.471 It was the student fees. The union fees, because one of them was a student union fee,
00:02:08.446 was going to operating Friends of the College,
00:02:13.578 which no question that that--as a teenager my mom got us to many of the wonderful programs
00:02:20.984 --its value, but the question was,
00:02:25.696 who made that decision, do the students know that they are doing this?
00:02:30.020 Because many students, like me with the athletics,
00:02:34.081 they're not going to go to a ballet, they're not going to go to a symphony,
00:02:38.087 so why are they putting money in that they have no control over?
00:02:41.912 And it was that awareness, because certainly by the time I came in,
00:02:45.754 unions always being a hated thing in the South,
00:02:48.426 the student union had no connection with the word union. It was just the building.