Beginning next semester, the Community Outreach Committee (COCo) of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) will encourage more student groups to use space in the old WSA building, located at 190 High St. Additionally, COCo will perform maintenance on the building over winter break.
The building was converted last school year when the WSA offices were moved to the Usdan University Center. While the organization no longer conducts administrative activities in the 190 High St. building, it continues to oversee the building through COCo. Currently, the building’s largest operations include the University Organizing Center (UOC) and the Queer Resource Center (QRC). A few other student groups also use the space for meetings and storage.
“The building is underutilized, and what we’re looking to do is get it cleaned up and get more groups to use it,” said COCo member Justin LaSelva ’09.
LaSelva has been highly involved in this project, along with fellow COCo member Greer Dent ’12 and COCo chairwoman Elise Rosenthal ’11.
Depending on how much time student groups need, LaSelva predicts that up to 20 or 30 groups will be able to use the building by next semester.
“I’m not sure if we’ll get that kind of response, but I’m hoping we will,” he said.
Hermes magazine has had an office in the building for years, and has found the space very useful.
“One hundred ninety High Street is a great, open space for student group activities and meetings,” said Katie Shelly ’09, an editor at Hermes. “I personally don’t think Hermes would have survived as long as it has—since 1975—without an office to do business in.”
COCo began the building clean up by hosting a mandatory event for student groups using the facility. On Saturday, Nov. 22, all such groups were required to mark any materials stored at the building that they wished to save and those they wished to discard. Student groups were also given instructions on how to store files, records and other materials not necessary for daily operations.
Maintenance will be paid for through the University maintenance budget. Much of the work will be concentrated on the basement of the building, where the WSA plans to put up new dry wall. The building will also be re-keyed due to security issues.
COCo also plans to take greater initiative in advertising the space.
“I think a big problem with getting people into 190 High right now is that we haven’t really made an effort to say that this space is available for student groups,” LaSelva said. “This is something we’ll do next semester.”
To use the building student groups must fill out an application, available at the WSA office and on students’ E-Portfolios, as well as sign a contract. To organize activity in the building, COCo plans to draw up schedules and sign-up sheets for each group. A building monitor will be available to open and close the building during operation hours from noon until midnight.
“We have to get something done with this building if we’re going to justify keeping it for student space, especially with the budget crunch,” LaSelva said. “We don’t want to give the University a reason to take it away.”
LaSelva noted that some groups have come forward to express the need for such a space and that there may even be a particular space within the building for publishing groups.
“A lot of groups need this venue and this way they won’t have to meet in places like dorms anymore,” he said. “We just want to make sure that student groups have all the tools they need to succeed.”
Shelly believes this initiative will be a positive one for student groups.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “The more opportunities for face-to-face interaction among student group leaders, the stronger our student group community will be. One of Hermes’ goals is to connect student activists and leaders through our printed publication. But there’s no better way to connect people than for them all to share one building and hang out together in it.”