Why the Tinkham Veale University Center isn’t a new student center

CWRU House Mafia

From the Mafia

CWRU is about to get an iconic new building that is intended to transform both the built environment and the culture of campus. But students and administrators have been using different language to talk about the new building, and as the opening date gets closer, the expectations of both groups are diverging rapidly.

The Tinkham Veale University Center (TVUC) has been in the works for a long time and became a priority in the 2005 Master Plan – and the plan has always been the same: build a university center.

The distinction is imperceptible if you aren’t listening carefully. Student centers, like those at CMU or MIT, are built to be used almost exclusively by students. They are packed full of coffee shops, bookstores, barbers, lounges, offices for student groups, even Kinkos and banks with real tellers – all services and spaces that a student frequently makes use of.  The idea is to have a single building which centralizes many of the extraneous needs of students – and always with a priority toward students.

Although it may look the same as a student center at first glance, a university center has a different purpose. Like any good university center, the TVUC is meant to be an icon of the university, to the rest of the community and to campus members, but mostly to the community.

There will be only a handful of dining options that will likely compete with existing campus staples like Cramelot and the Jolly Scholar. Only the biggest student organizations will have office space – USG, UPB, COC, IFC/Panhel, etc. – and very limited office space at that.  Event spaces have been designed to host events on the scale of TED or the Town Hall Speaker Series, not an organization’s cultural show or the semesterly production of the Footlighters.

In practice, and from the perspective of a student, a university center is much more like a miniature convention center. Only big-name events that can afford steep space-usage fees will be able to make use of the programing spaces, which will likely be kept closed the rest of the time to keep them nice.

Think of it this way: student centers are built of concrete and steel for a reason – students beat the heck out of them. University centers are built of glass and have fancy furniture because it means they can attract community partners that will pump in revenue.

So whether you call it the TVUC, the Tink, the Campus Center or have no idea what we’re talking about, just know that what you’re getting won’t be a student center.  Instead, we’re getting a university center.

 A new weekly contributor to The Observer, CWRU House Mafia is a blog beyond The Daily that strives to engage and develop a deeper sense of community at Case Western Reserve University. They’re only a click away at cwruhousemafia.tumblr.com.