For students, campus center alone might not be enough

This article is part of the Daily Trojan‘s supplement issue, “If you build it, will they come?” This semester’s supplement focused on the impact of the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center and University Gateway apartment complex, both of which will open this fall.

From the editors:

With the opening of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center on the horizon, USC officials should be commended for taking a major step toward creating a residential culture on campus.

John Park | Daily Trojan

But this is only the first step, and we hope administrators don’t consider the job finished — or even halfway complete.

Administrators say the new building will make the University Park Campus a destination for students at night and on weekends — something it has never been before. But many of the restaurants will not be open on the weekend, and much of the building itself seems designed to impress visitors and potential applicants rather than provide functional space for current students.

We recognize that alumni, prospective students, administrators and faculty all needed upgraded facilities and a place to congregate, but we worry that without a true student union, comparisons of USC to schools like UCLA and Stanford will ring hollow to students.

To create a true and permanent residential atmosphere on campus, the campus center must be just one part of a broader plan to improve all aspects of student life.

To really pull students to campus would require large and dedicated student lounges, game rooms and an array of food options that are diverse and open late.

In addition, the overused Lyon Center is constantly packed, and students deserve the same state-of-the-art recreational facility that so many other top universities boast.

The field space and basketball/tennis court areas badly need upgrading too because intramural sports deserve the same quality of fields and facilities that the varsity program enjoys.

USC must work to guarantee housing to more of its undergraduate population, preferably on or next to campus. The university has already outlined a housing proposal as part of its Master Plan, and we hope the school moves quickly to implement this important vision. It’s not enough to let private developers seize the market for student housing — and charge premium prices.

We hope administrators recognize that this is a Herculean task requiring coordination and input from the entire Trojan community, especially current students.

USC should create a plan for reaching its goal of creating a residential university, so that all the different elements of the university can be working toward this end together. Perhaps a committee of students, faculty and top administrators — including our new president, C. L. Max Nikias — could create this plan.

Nikias’ leadership in particular will be crucial. He will become president at a crucial time in USC’s history, when its student life experience is badly trying to catch up to the school’s elite national reputation. We hope Nikias recognizes the challenge that’s ahead and acts swiftly to set USC on a path toward becoming a true residential university.