SF State President Leslie E. Wong donated $100,000 this year to bring back the University Club on campus, according to the Campus Memo.
The University Club was a restaurant and lounge for SF State employees designed to increase collaboration and foster a greater sense of community, according to senior assistant librarian Meredith Eliassen, who said it was a private organization owned by approximately 500 members, including faculty and staff. It was established in 1977 and located in the Franciscan Building next to the old library, she said.
The new UClub is set to open August 2016, and the new location will be in the Mezzanine level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, where the bookstore’s offices previously resided, according to Jonathan Morales, director of news media.
“Since the prior club ceased operations, there has been a desire to identify a new space to provide to members of the faculty and staff community,” Morales said. “Only recently has a space been identified. Additionally, the University Corporation and the Academic Senate have collaborated to develop a funding and operations model to support the club’s activities.”
The club offered faculty and staff light meals and alcoholic beverages and some faculty preferred the Student Union, because it was cheaper, Eliassen said.
“(At the original UClub,) there were sofas and a coffee table with a chess set and New Yorkers near the fireplace that gave it a homey feel,” Eliassen said “Holiday parties and, towards the end, events like ‘Are You Being Served?’ (luncheon) were held there.”
UClub could accommodate up to 150 people and had two private dining rooms that could be reserved for parties or events, Eliassen said.
“The University Club also exhibited artwork by faculty, staff and invited artists that was sometimes for sale,” Eliassen said.
The Franciscan Building, where the club operated, was the first building on campus to be designed by a private architect in 1961 and cost the University $286,000, according to Eliassen. Issues arose for UClub when plans for a new library were created, University librarian Deborah Masters said.
“It was located on the site of what became the west addition as a part of the library expansion and renovation project,” Masters said. “The Franciscan Building was demolished to provide the site for the library expansion.”
In 2005, when the existing library and the Franciscan Building were demolished to make room for the new J. Paul Leonard Library, UClub was left with no place to operate.
At the time, UClub was dwindling and could not sustain itself financially, according to the minutes from a 2005 Academic Senate Meeting.
“Core paid membership was low, income was poor, and strong campus interest was insufficient for support,” the minutes state. “Despite all efforts, membership and attendance were down.”
Membership had dropped from 462 members in 1997 to 167 in 2005, and the club reported a loss of $8,000 for their income during 2004, according to the minutes from the meeting.
A Campus Memo from 2005 said that the UClub Board of Directors had attempted to find a new space for the UClub after it closed, but when no suitable location was found, the club never reopened. Since the closure of the club, faculty members meet at the faculty commons located in the J. Paul Leonard Library which provides a space for faculty to reserve for non-private events such as brown bag meetings, readings or faculty potlucks.
Wong’s $100,000 donation was intended to help create space needed to re-establish the club, according to Morales, who said the donation came from discretionary, non-state funds.
“The president believes it is critical that we support our faculty and staff by providing them with a place to meet, collaborate, share ideas and create community,” Morales said.
The club will be self-funded through membership dues set by the Academic Senate and revenue from an agreement with an existing campus food vendor to be selected by the Academic Senate. A $50,000 commitment from Follett, the campus bookstore chain, was also allocated by the University Corporation’s Bookstore Advisory Committee for faculty support and activities, Morales said.
The UClub is intended to serve faculty and staff across campus, as well as provide employment and potential internship opportunities for students, according to Morales.
“The purpose is to strengthen the campus community by creating a common space where faculty and staff can collaborate across all colleges and disciplines in order to foster dialogue and innovation,” Morales said. “These types of interactions can improve the ways faculty and staff can serve SF State students.”