In less than a year’s time, the physical terrain of our campus will be in a state of transition. Lower Sproul Redevelopment is expected to officially begin next fall with the demolition of Eshleman Hall and the implementation of the B.E.A.R.S. (Bringing Energy and Revitalization to Sproul) Initiative. This $223 million project intends to rejuvenate Lower Sproul and create a vibrant and robust student center, bustling at all hours of the day.
With the anticipated date of completion set for 2015, UC Berkeley can expect to receive a jolt of new life at the heart of its campus.
However, before students can enjoy their new and improved student center, they will have to endure substantial renovations for two and a half years. This will require compromise from all sides, but students must assert their role as majority stakeholders.
With a budget of approximately $5 million, this transition, known holistically as SURGE, must not be taken lightly. For many, the temporary SURGE space will serve as the home for student groups for the remainder of their career at Cal. The Hearst Gym and Hearst Field Annex, located directly south of Barrows Hall, will serve as the SURGE space for student groups while essential services such as the Open Computing Facility, Publications Center, Blue & Gold Yearbook and ASUC Auxiliary will also be relocated for the time being. Due to this unfamiliar environment, students need to properly acquaint themselves with the temporary home of their organizations by being present at stakeholder meetings with architects.
To put this more in context with physical space, there is currently about 20,979 assignable square feet of space in Eshleman Hall. During SURGE, this will be reduced to about 14,549 assignable square feet in the Hearst Gym and Hearst Field Annex, which amounts to a 30 percent reduction. This decrease in space is inevitable, but undeniable. While the numbers may seem daunting, student input has been instrumental to providing solutions to many of these issues. As a voting member of the Lower Sproul Working Group and Programming Committee, I have been able to weigh in on several key concerns.
However, the most significant conversations have occurred when student communities have taken it upon themselves to get involved. One instance occurred when the Bridges Multicultural Resource Center expressed the necessity for more enclosed student space during SURGE and in the new building, citing the need for security and privacy.
Although I had been advocating for their needs up to that moment, alongside other ASUC officials, their input proved to be the tipping point that swayed the campus to provide more enclosed student spaces. Their success proved that ASUC officials cannot do this alone and that it is paramount that students continue to be a part of this process.
Opponents and critics have long asserted that Lower Sproul Redevelopment will be too costly and not address campus climate issues. They will be right only if students do not seize this chance to shape our new student center. This project will not be worth it if the Lower Sproul of the future does not reflect our needs — this will happen if students choose not to participate. In this climate of budget cuts and fee hikes, Lower Sproul Redevelopment offers a concrete example of students paying for a better service and environment on campus. Of the entire $223 million budget, $124 million is being paid for by students while the campus is investing $99 million. This fact highlights the inherent influence that students have and the opportunities for involvement are there; students just need to capitalize on them. It is incumbent upon students to assert ownership in this process and directly shape how Lower Sproul will look for years to come. Not doing so would be a waste of money and an insult to future students.
With the advent of Lower Sproul Redevelopment upon us, students must be prepared. A partnership of this magnitude between the campus and students is unprecedented; as such, students need to make the necessary efforts to directly participate. The ASUC, specifically the Executive Vice President’s office, has been working diligently to address all students’ concerns but decisions need to be made. Students can help facilitate this process by getting rid of any unnecessary materials and taking a detailed inventory of their belongings.
Present and future ASUC elected officials cannot do this alone, so it is up to students to hold down their end of the bargain by contributing to the conversation and by holding the ASUC accountable for the decisions made. The opportunity to tangibly instill our legacy on this campus through Lower Sproul Redevelopment is there – it will be up to us to take it.
Anthony Galace is an ASUC senator.