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Willard George Pybus is a recent graduate of the University of Alberta Faculty of Education. During the session 1947-48 he was Chairman of the Students' Union Building Advisory Board and at the present time he is Vice-Chairman. As far as the Students' Union was concerned he was Director of the Students' Union Building. Mr. Pybuss is also a past-president of the Students' Union and to quote the Gateway, "Has probably done more than any one student to bring about the construction of a Union Building on the Alberta Campus." Mr. Pybus is now doing post-graduate work in Education and hopes to be around long enough to see his pet project well on the way to completion.

The Students' Union Building

 
 

By Willard (Bill) Pybus

"We need a Students' Union Building."

Almost every student, past or present, has made this statement at some time in his career at the University of Alberta. During the past two years the undergraduate body has been actively working to bring about the construction of such a building, and the purpose of this article is to bring the alumni of the university up-to-date on Students' Union Building activity on the campus.

I should like to begin, then, with a brief sketch of the history of the project.

In the early years of the university there was an evident need for a Students' Union Building. However, it was not until 1920 that the first efforts were made to bring it into existence. In that year, the records show that the possibility of building a gymnasium was discussed by the Union. By 1930 matters had progressed to the point where a referendum was placed before the student body, but the proposal was defeated and the project was dropped for a few years.

In 1934 a Gateway editorial suggested that the Union should plan not only for a gymnasium but for a building that would house administration offices, Clubrooms, eating facilities and a swimming pool. Lack of finances brought this scheme to an early close. The inauguration of the Students' Union Building Reserve Fund two years later was an important step towards realization of a building. Interest increased greatly in the immediate pre-war years but World War II halted further activity.

In the fall of 1945 a War Memorial Building project was brought forward but it was turned down in favour of a Scholarship Memorial. The Students' Council of the following year started a vigorous building programme early in its tenure of office. The original plans called for a $500,000 building to be financed upon a dollar for dollar contributory basis by the Students' Union and the Provincial Government. A great deal of effort was expended in coordinating structural and financial plans in an attempt to reach arrangements satisfactory to both parties. By the spring of 1947 a $300,000 interest-free loan from the Provincial Government had been arranged. This amount, together with the Reserve Fund of $100,000, totalled $400,000 which would be available to commence construction, in 1948, on the first unit of a building. However, the rapidly increasing building costs of the post-war period did not permit work to be started on the then-proposed first unit. It was readily seen that the building plans must be scaled down or more money must be forthcoming. In view of this situation the retiring Students' Council of 1946-47 decided to appoint an Advisory Board to assist the students in their undertaking.

A full-time chairman of the Advisory Board was appointed for the summer months of 1947 to ensure that the problem would be vigorously attacked.

The Advisory Board, working in conjunction with Student-President George Hartling and his 1947-48 Council, was able to bring before the student body the concrete proposals which will be outlined in this report to the Alumni.

The complete plans of the building show a social centre (stage one) a gymnasium and swimming pool (stage two), and an auditorium (stage three.) Since the structural and financial plans for the social centre (stage one) have been approved by the student body and University authorities, construction can commence this summer, provided that the contractors' bids on the building come within the amount of money which is available.

Stage one of the Union Building is designed as a centre for extracurricular student activity. It will include lounge and meeting rooms, students' and alumni offices, space for the production of student publications, a lunch room, a games room and faculty club rooms. Stage one, a meeting place for all students, is to provide pleasant surroundings for the interchange of opinions and ideas and will thus contribute to the greater development of Alberta students.

Too many graduates have left our University with the idea that the sole purpose of a university training is to increase their earning power: that any debt which they may owe to society, as potential leaders trained to assume responsibility, is completely discharged when the Bursar marks "Paid" on their fee cards. The Union Building is designed to assist us in gaining a better perspective on our University and ourselves and thus equip us, as graduates, to make our maximum contribution as educated men and women.

It is realized that a social centre providing facilities for informal meeting and discussion among all students does not take care of all extracurricular activities which make up university life. It is hoped that later stages of the building will adequately fill the needs of the numerous specialized groups.

Stage one consists of a main floor, a basement and a second floor; three storeys in all. The outside dimensions of the building are 181 feet (east-west) by 52 feet (north-south). The brick will match either that used in the power plant or the darker type used in the Medical Building. Opinions are likely to vary on the suitability of the types mentioned. However, it is generally agreed that the problem of harmonizing exterior color schemes on the campus is becoming increasingly difficult. It is to be hoped that most people will favor the final choice. The exterior stonework is designed to meet a limited budget and should provide a pleasing contrast with that used on the Medical Building.

The estimated cost of stage one is $500,000 not including the cost of furnishing. This amount has been raised in the following manner: (a) $100,000 has been accumulated in the Students' Union Building Reserve Fund by means of a one dollar yearly assessment on Union fees - this was started in 1936 and the levy was increased to four dollars in 1946; (b) a $400,000 interest-free loan has been negotiated with the Provincial Government. The loan is to be repaid over a period of 20 years out of an annual Students' Union Building levy of six dollars on union fees. This action was approved by a referendum vote of the student body in February of this year. A proportionate levy upon summer session students will aid in the retirement of the loan.

The Board of Governors is substantially assisting the project by assuming the cost of moving the Drill Hall and the maintenance cost of the building during the period of retirement of the Provincial Government loan. As a matter of fact, the Drill Hall has already been moved to its new location immediately south of its former position.

The students have assumed responsibility for furnishing the building and plan to raise the required funds with the aid of those interested in our University. The Alumni Association has shown an active interest in the building project and will be given an opportunity to invest financially in the Union Building when the furnishing campaign is launched.

Let us now make a tour of the interior of stage one.

The north four-door main entrance opens into a well-lighted main lobby where Alberta's many trophies in all fields may be displayed. Space is provided at the south end of the lobby for a small newsstand and counters for the sale of tickets.

On the left is the men's and women's (mixed) lounge which is slightly less in floor area than the main dining room of Athabasca Hall. The room has 14 large windows, seven of which are located in a rounded alcove looking eastward upon the campus. The interior decoration has not been decided. However, prominent Canadian consultants in this field have been contacted, and it is expected that the finished room will be most pleasing. In addition to informal gatherings, the mixed lounge can be used for musical evenings, visiting speakers, receptions, the smaller class and club dances and numerous other activities.

Across the lobby from the mixed lounge are the student and alumni administration offices. The students' offices are designed to make efficient use of the space provided. Instead of having a separate office for each student official, a room large enough for six desks, which may be used in common by all groups, is provided. Each organization will have private drawer or filing cabinet space. Movable glass walls divide the remainder of the room into private offices for the Building Director, his assistant, and the President of the Students' Union.

The alumni offices will be found across the hall from the students' offices. Space is provided for a private and an outer office. In deciding to include alumni offices it was felt that the roots of a flourishing alumni association are found in the undergraduate body and that the association officials should be on hand to cultivate interest in its purposes and activities. It was further felt that the building is designed as home for students and alumni, and as such should include alumni offices.

The men's lounge is just down the hall from the alumni office. The five public telephones are situated near the entrance to the lounge and will fill a long-felt need among the undergraduate body. The men's coat room is next to the telephones. The lounge is slightly less in floor area than the mixed lounge. A "quiet" section can be formed by means of a sliding panel wall. The men's lounge is well lighted by north and south windows which will provide a pleasing view, particularly toward the west.

Returning to the main lobby, we find the second floor and basement stairways. Let us go down first. To the left of the basement lobby is the games room which has the same floor area as the mixed lounge and can be fitted for billiards, table tennis, checkers, chess, cards or any other indoor games which the student body may from time to time introduce.

The men's washrooms and a three-chair barber shop are situated just off the basement lobby.

Across the basement lobby from the games room is the combination snack bar and banquet room. Some of the stormiest controversies of the building project were centred around the eating facilities to be provided. The original plan was to move the present university cafeteria equipment over to the Students' Union Building, thus releasing the cafeteria building for other purposes. However, finances would not permit a full-scale cafeteria large enough to meet the growing demand for eating facilities.

Consequently, it was decided that instead of duplicating the present cafeteria capacity, a snack bar, seating 240 persons, should be built. It can later be expanded into a full-scale cafeteria to seat 400 persons. In addition to service as a snack bar, the proposed room will be adequate to seat 200 persons at a formal banquet; the snack bar would be closed on such an occasion. Until adequate kitchen space can be provided it is expected that a goodly portion of the food for a large banquet will have to be prepared by catering organizations.

Let us return to the now familiar main lobby and go up the stairs to the second floor.

On the left of the second floor lobby is the women's lounge which has a floor area approximately three-quarters that of the mixed lounge. A large fireplace in keeping with Wauneita tradition, the alcove "quiet" room and the numerous windows are the main features of this room. The Wauneitas will be consulted on all phases of the interior decoration of their lounge.

The women's washrooms and coat rooms are just off the second floor lobby. Next to the women's coat room is a radio broadcasting control room which adjoins a series of three conference rooms which can be enlarged by means of sliding walls to form one room. Through scheduling of the various rooms maximum use can be made of available space.

Across the hall from the conference room are the publications' workrooms and offices. The yearbook staff will have a large workroom, a storeroom and an editor's office. The Gateway is provided with similar facilities. A photographic dark room and an adjoining workroom is situated in this publications section of the building and will be shared by the Photography Club, The Gateway and the Evergreen and Gold.

The faculty club rooms are a separate unit on the second floor and are accessible from the west side of the building. The lounge is approximately 30 feet by 32 feet and the dining room 30 feet by 26 feet. Food will be prepared in the basement kitchen and taken to the faculty pantry by means of a food elevator. Separate washrooms and coat rooms are provided. The faculty club rooms will be financed by a voluntary membership fee equal to the students' yearly building levy. The Board of Governors will pay the difference between the amount raised by the faculty members and the proportionate cost of the club rooms in relation to the whole building.

And that concludes our tour of the interior.

As has already been said, the preliminary step has been taken: the Drill Hall has been moved. If a firm bid which is within our financial ability can be obtained, construction on stage one will commence this summer. What was once a dream will become a reality. The student body, aided by the Advisory Board, University authorities, the alumni and numerous other groups, will have reached its immediate goal. Beyond stage one lies a further challenge. Because our university is young and self-critical, I think the challenge will be taken up.

Published July 1948.

       
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