Office of Student Engagement rearranges student organization offices; 10 spaces affected

By JACK VANASSCHE, Editor-in-Chief

The offices of student organizations on the second floor of the University Center were rearranged in late August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

In total, 10 spaces were changed on the “Move-In Day” on Aug. 25. Spaces affected include the Michigan Journal, Greek Life, Student Activities Board (SAB), Student Government and Student Organization Advisory Council (SOAC) offices, as well as the InCLUDE and the food pantry.

The Office of Student Engagement proposed a plan to student leaders in mid-August that would see offices switched between student organizations along with university spaces.

One of the largest changes saw the office of Student Government take the office on the main floor of the University Center that was previously housing the Student Activities Board. SAB was assigned Student Government’s old space.

On the second floor, the InCLUDE is the most changed space, as it now inhabits the spaces that previously held both Greek Life and the Michigan Journal. The Michigan Journal is now in the space vacated by the InCLUDE, while Greek Life has downsized into an office previously used by the Office of Student Engagement.

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Blake Bonkowski, the coordinator for LGBTQ+ initiatives and inclusion initiatives, worked closely with other members of the Office of Student Engagement when looking at the possibility of room changes.

Bonkowski said he and his coworkers were asked by a supervisor, Amy Finley, to review the layout of the spaces to optimize efficiency.

“We realized pretty quickly that there were a lot of spaces that could be better,” Bonkowski said. “We moved folks around so that all spaces affected would be better in some way, or at least so they would match their use better.”

Bonkowski, with Melissa Guffey and Melissa Booth of the Office of Student Engagement, drew up countless drafts of potential space changes to address needs the office found.

A main goal was to expand the student food pantry, which gives all students access to food they may not be getting otherwise.

Expanding the InCLUDE was another goal. Bonkowski described the space as “a social programming and resource space for LGBTQ+ initiatives and diversity programs for anyone with oppressed identities.”

Bonkowski said the InCLUDE would be better suited in a space that holds room for two offices for him and the soon-to-be-hired diversity programs coordinator.

The new InCLUDE space will have Bonkowski and the diversity programs coordinator’s offices in what was previously the Michigan Journal offices, while the space in the old Greek Life office will become a lounge for students to take resources and meet with other students.

Bonkowski said originally the plan was to have the InCLUDE move into either the old Greek Life office or the old Michigan Journal offices. Talks later in the process led to the InCLUDE moving into both spaces.

Four plans were finalized and sent to Vice Chancellor Ray Metz for final approval. With some compromise, the university decided on a fifth draft to put into place.

“We were talking with students the entire time,” Bonkowski said. “We talked specifically to students that were moving. We wanted to make sure that this worked for everybody.”

Not all students were pleased with the moves.

Fatima Mallad, president of the sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon, said the new Greek Life office is step down from the old.

“The room that they’ve assigned us to is a room that’s significantly smaller than the one we used to be in,” she said. “It gets cramped and hot in there with like six to eight people. That’s kind of a bummer.”

Mallad acknowledged that, although the space isn’t what she’d like it to be, it is still a serviceable space for the needs of the organizations that work out of it.

“With some forethought, it will work for what we need it to be,” she said.

Students were asked by the Office of Student Engagement what their organizations needed to be successful in a new space.

With aging technology in many of the student organization’s offices, the equipment listed was typically on the expensive side: new computers, printers, fresh paint and furniture.

Bonkowski said the school is working to determine how to meet all of the needs of the affected student organizations, while hopefully meeting what they want as well.

“The folks who moved are the priority, especially if people moved into smaller or very different spaces,” he said. “We’re getting those immediate needs taken care of first. As people use the spaces, we figure what is working and what it will take to get it to work.”

Bonkowski said there is no timetable as to when decisions will be made on what the university will provide.