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Students feel effects of losing SUB to renovation

In the basement of the renovated bookstore, boxes and unplugged computers sit atop desks in cubicles where student organizations moved after SUB construction began nearly a year ago.

Members of some of those groups say that space constraints have hurt membership and participation during the past year.

The completion date for the Student Union Building has been pushed back from August to September, project manager Lou Castillo said.

Sean Gallagher-Gonzales, assistant director of the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group at UNM, said the organization's membership has fallen from about 60 to 80 members to about 30 members in the past year due a lack of meeting and work space.

"Before it was kind of welcoming," he said of the group's former office in the SUB. "You could sit with a dozen people and brainstorm."

Moving into the new office last year was problematic, he said, because the old office was about four times larger than the group's current space. Gallagher-Gonzales said the group had to get rid of a lot of furniture, old files, news clippings and documents.

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NMPIRG is one of about three student organizations to have a locking office in the basement of the renovated bookstore instead of a cubicle. Gallagher-Gonzales said the groups in cubicles, with the exception of the Muslim Student Association, rarely make an appearance in their spaces.

"They don't have a secure area to keep computers and documents," he said, adding that they also lack room for meetings. "When people come by it's a pretty pleasant atmosphere, but no one comes by."

Jon Swearingen, a member of the Association for Non-traditional Students at UNM, said that lack of office space also has negatively affected his group.

"It has meant that we have decreased participation and attendance at our meetings," he said.

Swearingen said the student organization space in the renovated bookstore is less social than the old SUB space and is unavailable late at night and during the weekends. He said he doesn't want to complain too much because the association has an office with a locking door, unlike many of the student organizations that have cubicles.

The association's old office in the SUB had a large fireplace, which no longer worked, but housed the group's microwave and coffeemaker. It was also large enough to hold a couch.

"It was so neat because you could come in and lay down for awhile," he said.

He said the group now has some of its bigger meetings in the SUB tent, Zimmerman Library and empty classrooms.

Krista Hein, a student manager of Dining Services who works in an office next to the cubicles, said that it's almost as if the groups never unpacked.

"The boxes have been here since they moved in," Hein said. "They haven't opened them or anything."

Though the $25 million project is not expected to be finished until September, Castillo said students can expect wider walkways on the north end of the building as construction fences move closer to the SUB in the next few months.

Construction workers are putting in plumbing, mechanical ducts and electrical lines, he said, and will install windows and doors to close in the building during the next few months. They will complete interior walls in late spring, Castillo said.

"They're going to have to be pretty much done by August so all of the testing of the systems can be done before September," he said. "I think students are really going to appreciate this."

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