Union Spotlight on Mel Lindbloom Student Union at Green River College
QUIC FACTS:Green River College
Two-year, public, suburban, commuter
Enrollment: 8,432 full-time; 11,482 total
Location: Auburn, Washington
Mel Lindbloom Student Union
Year Built: 2016
Floors: 2 (plus basement)
Director: Dani Crivello-Chang (Dean of Campus Life)
Annual Operating Budget: $50,000 (Does not include energy costs, custodial services, and restroom supplies)
Student Staff: 60-75 part-time
Nonstudent Staff: 25 full-time
You know you’re popular when your student union’s been open less than four years and you’ve already started thinking about replacing lounge furniture.
“We anticipated high use and though we’d accounted for that with the selection of specific furniture and materials, our space and furniture see high traffic use and we will need to start planning for replacements,” said Green River College dean of students Dani Crivello-Chang.
It helps that the entirety of Lindbloom Student Union is loaded with technology, with touch screens and audio and visual capability in both meeting rooms and open public spaces. Exterior walls are primarily glass, so natural light abounds, and weekly Gator Giveaways such as ice cream, hot chocolate, and winter gloves with the school logo, serve as student magnets beyond the array of student services: campus life, student government, café, cafeteria, bookstore, fitness studio, lounges, games room, meeting rooms, and conference and event services.
Stack all that up with the union hot spot, the Cascade Stairs, and the only reason to leave would be for class. The grand staircase reaches up from the center of the interior, and with its big video screen and a double-sided stage, serves as a gathering spot for lunch and casual get-togethers or for special events.
“This area fills up quick and stays full most of the day, with oversized pillows and lots of space,” Crivello-Chang said. “It’s one of the most popular places for students to hang out all day long.”
The union is home to both the campus office of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a multicultural lounge, and a weekly Diversity Equity Series offers national speakers, social justice-themed movies, and a clearinghouse for discussions among faculty, staff, students, and the community. The union’s commitment to social equity has been witnessed campus-wide as the site for the first multi stall gender inclusive restroom at the college. “This may sound silly, but my favorite part of the building is our restroom. The ability to provide a safe, equitable space for all people to go potty brings me the most joy!,” Crivello-Chang said.
It’s unfortunate not everyone feels that way, she added. As a public institution that has deliberately not defined “free speech space” on campus, white supremacist groups have made appearances at the college.
“It has caused high alerts on campus and negative and unsafe feelings with our students, faculty and staff. We have had forums for individuals to express their concerns and stories, to gather for support and strength building and to engage in conversations on how we, as a campus, can come together to build community and togetherness against this kind of rhetoric and hate,” she said. “We are always looking for the best ways to support our campus community, which is our number one priority.”
Procedures to register groups and about amplification and occupying space have been developed, and with enough information about groups that are coming, work can be done in advance to help frame for students what roles and responsibilities are and how messages of inclusion and equity can be conveyed around campus.