Monday, February 09, 2009

Student Union Update

OHSU Graduate Students,

Despite a number of logistical and financial hurdles, the OHSU Student Union is indeed becoming a reality - and hopefully sooner than later. But before I present the "coming soon" survey to sample what you want for food and drink service at the union, I feel it is appropriate to provide a brief overview of the Union's history, its purpose, and its finances.

The Student Union was conceived as a place where students can relax, study, eat and drink, socialize, and host academic forums. This atmosphere is lacking on campus due to OHSU's unique physical isolation from Portland, as well as its lack of a large undergraduate component to the student base. With the advent of MARCH Wellness, the previous fitness center on campus was compelled to close, leaving the building ripe for invention. The University liked the idea of a Student Union and pledged financial support, along with the Student Council, to build a union. The union will be built in phases, with "Phase I" nearing a late winter/early spring 2009 completion.

Second, the finances. The money pledged by OHSU was done so 1-2 years ago so the current budget crisis of OHSU is not (largely) affecting Phase I since this phase is nearly complete, and since most of this money was already subtracted from the books before recent budgeting. Future phase completion, however, will likely be slowed. So far, OHSU has spent about 1.8 M on the building, with students contributing about 6% through the incidental fee. Phase I is possibly the most expensive phase due to necessary seismic upgrades and infrastructure rearrangements - actions that only have to be done once. That said, let's not fall into the trap of projecting costs for future projects (cough...the tram). But it is safe to say that current budget cuts will push Phase II and III well into the months/years ahead, which is completely understandable.

As for now, Phase I is nearing its completion. What does this mean for you? The Student Union will immediately feature an open-area, furnished lounge, aptly named "The Nucleus," with study space and food/drink service. In addition, an old racquetball court was converted into an impressive ('s impressive) "Media Room" with stadium-style seating designed for presentations, movies, and even PS3 gaming. We are still working out the details of how this media room will be reserved, but feel free to give it a gander upon the soon-to-be-scheduled open house.

Finally, I will be sending around a survey within the next couple of days to sample what students would like for food and drink services at the Student Union. The current plan is to provide something different from other places on campus without the need for a noisy kitchen or cafe. And yes, there is still the hope for providing beer, but this still has to be worked out. Stay tuned for other updates, most notably when you will have a chance to finally use and enjoy your student union.

You can contact me (Dustin Johnsen) with any questions you may have at, or make a public post on the GSO Your Space blog at In the meantime, look for the food service survey soon...


Student Union Committee,
-Dustin Johnsen, chair
-Nina Katovic
-Robert Gould
-Abhinav Sinha

Dustin Johnsen
President, Graduate Student Organization
OHSU Neuroscience Graduate Program

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