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SOU work makes life less certain

An upcoming renovation in the Stevenson Union at Southern — Oregon University has started a domino effect of moving school organizations — and students to other locations amid concerns that school officials are — not taking into consideration their needs.

Last week, a group of five female students living in Baker — Hall were informed they had to move by the weekend, with the space to — be occupied by four student-run programs currently located in the basement — of the SU. After concerns from Baker Hall residents and students from — the Women's Resource Center and the Queer Resource Center, SOU administrators — decided the five women did not have to move.

The WRC and QRC were offered smaller accommodations on — the third floor of the SU, which they said did not meet their needs dealing — with sensitive situations such as sexual assault and coming out of the — closet. They believe the administration has been indifferent to their — needs and has not communicated properly with them about the changes.

School officials contend they have done everything in — their power to accommodate student and school organization needs.

A decision on where to move the other two groups, the — Nontraditional Resource Center, and the Oregon Student Public Interest — Research Group has not been made.

Baker Hall

Lynnea Amend, an SOU senior and office and staff manager — of the WRC, and Phaedra Harris, an SOU junior and a student advisor at — the QRC, said they were not consulted about the move to Baker Hall.

They said it would have been inappropriate because the — residence halls are places where issues they deal with, such as sexual — assault, have occurred. Amend said students seeking help would not have — the privacy they have in the SU basement.

Harris said many students coming to their office are still — not open about their homosexuality and may be uncomfortable going to a — place where they are visible and don't feel safe.

They brought their concerns to the administration, who — decided last Friday not to move the two groups into Baker.

Diane Brimmer, vice president for student affairs at SOU, — said the Baker location was chosen after "thoughtful consideration" from — each of the directors of the student organizations. She said after the — concerns were raised, the plans to move these groups to Baker were scrapped.

"Student and staff concerns have been taken into consideration — each time we have offered alternative locations," Brimmer said.

Construction at the SU is scheduled to begin late next — month, at a cost of $6.9 million. Brimmer said it should be completed — at the end of November, with groups such as the WRC and QRC moving into — their new quarters in time for winter term 2006.

Not enough space

The QRC and WRC have been offered two separate rooms on — the third floor of the SU.

Harris and Amend said the rooms, which they estimate are — 12 feet by 12 feet each, are way too small for two groups that deal with — safety and support issues.

Amend said there are three rooms in the current WRC location, — which gives them enough room for staff and volunteers, and space for privacy — when someone comes in that has been violently or sexually abused.

"We have special needs and they are not being considered," — Amend said. "It feels like we're constantly fighting to get our voices — heard."

"It has been apparent that SOU's efforts to prevent violence — on campus are superficial as they simultaneously disregard the victims — themselves and the work of students and staff who directly support them," — she added.

While the new space would be temporary, Harris worries — what will happen to students who do not seek the QRC and WRC because they — are not comfortable with the temporary space.

"It's very unwelcoming," she said. "If we're unable to — help that's a large number of people not to get advocacy."

Harris and Amend said they originally proposed to use — one of the large conference rooms of the third floor and separate the — two organizations by using cubicle walls. They said that idea was rejected — by the administration.

Brimmer said the discussion about office location is still — open and concerns have been taken into consideration.

Working together

Deltra Ferguson, coordinator of the WRC, said while she — thinks there has been a lack of communication, she believes that there — was no ill intent. Ferguson said she believes that the administration — is trying to meet the needs of the WRC and the other groups and to work — with her to try to find a solution that's best for both parties.

Brimmer agreed that it was vital to find a workable solution.

"A college union is by its very nature is a place where — many individuals and groups come together for community and sharing," — she said. "It is important to come to an agreement so that the Stevenson — Union can more fully realize its role as a meeting place and in providing — programs that foster personal and professional development, citizenship, — and social responsibility."

Other organizations being moved by the renovations include — student publicity, the Siskiyou newspaper, the KSCOC radio station and — the State of Oregon Employment Center. No decision has been finalized — on the temporary location for these groups, Brimmer said.