AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Students at UMass Amherst called on the university, in the fall of 2017, to renovate their Student Union building. They even voted in favor of taking on an additional fee to make this happen.
Now, the newly improved building is open and ready to resume student activities.
“Actually, the want for a renovated Student Union actually started with the students,” said Johnny Tooson, executive director of student engagement and leadership at UMass Amherst.
The Student Union at UMass Amherst was originally built back in 1958. It was the first building on-campus dedicated to student organizations and extracurricular activities. A multi-year renovation project started during the 2017-2018 school year and students helped make it possible.
“…And so our students said ‘Hey, let’s put on a referendum’ and they voted on a bill to take on an additional fee that would allow them to partner with the university to make the renovation happen,” Tooson noted.
The result was a total rebuild and while it was ready to welcome students back in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic restricted access.
Tooson told Western Mass News that hopefully this will change in the fall.
“Of course, we’ve had some dips and rises with the numbers, but right now, we’re trying to ease into and get ready for full fledge fall,” Tooson noted.
We spoke with two students who are part of just one of the 450 organizations that will call this new Student Union home.
“Our office is in this building and it’s amazing. We love it. It has like a nice common area, so where all of our members can hang out. There’s nice tables for us to meet at and there’s also different offices within,” said UMass junior Lindsay Smith.
UMass Amherst students told us what they're most looking forward to once the Student Union is open for all.
“We also put on a lot of movie nights, so that’s what we’re hoping to use the new black box theater for,” Smith explained.
UMass senior Rutvik Shah added, “So I think definitely the ballroom is a massive space. We can do a lot of different things in there.”
The importance of this project is shared by all.
“We want to pride ourselves on being a campus that keeps the students first in everything that we do,” Tooson said.