Remodeled information desk incites mixed reactions from SF State students

Cesar Chavez Student Center
Alex Espinoza, 26, sits at the newly remodeled information desk in the Cesar Chavez Student Center Thursday, September 27, 2012. Photo by Andy Sweet / Xpress

With shiny iPads and HD flatscreens, the remodeled information desk at the Cesar Chavez Student Center is trying to attract more students, but not everyone seems happy with the high-tech remodel.

While students can go to the Student Information Center to see when Muni or BART departs, purchase Clipper cards and ask around for general information, the recent renovations have been met with mixed reaction. The desk project, which included the desk area’s wall, ceiling and electrical work, was estimated to cost $68,000.

Each student pays $82 per semester to the student center.

Guy Dalpe, managing director at the student center, couldn’t tell how much was spent on the remodeling of the information desk. This money came from the student repair and replacement fund.

Dalpe thought the renovation was necessary in order to freshen up the student center.

“The desk hadn’t been renovated in over 37 years. The reactions of the students are really positive, especially with the layout in general,” he said.

SF State student Lauren Harrington thought the design of the information desk was visually appealing but not much else.

“My first thought when I saw it — and the iPads that are locked down to it — was that the money used to pay for this would have been better spent on paying for much-needed classes,” the 20-year-old broadcast and electronic communication arts major said. “If there is enough money coming in from student fees to pay for a complete restructuring of the student information desk, two iPads, heavy locking security equipment to (lock) down the iPads, ergonomic chairs, a disco light and to rent all of the blow-up and carnival equipment, plus who knows what more, then there is too much going towards the student government.”

The student center gets 65 percent of their total revenue from the student body center fee and the other 35 percent from operating revenue. The operating revenue consists of commercial services, support services, food services, the recreation center and general programs.

The remodel of the student center took longer than initially planned, with the final project completed in mid-September, a jump from the original date of Aug. 17. The information desk had a soft opening Sept. 19, with the official grand opening scheduled for Oct. 12.

“This is to blame on the complexity of the design, this took some time,” Dalpe said.

Urban studies and planning major Colton Coty enjoys the new appearance on the whole. In the past he rarely used the information desk, but said that it is a great service for school organizations and outside visitors.

“It offers a very contemporary look and it seems to be fitting the school’s ‘look’ for new buildings. My only criticism is that it is too plain. The white gives a cool look, but there is really nothing else eye-popping,” Coty, 21, said. “As of now I do not think that the money that went into it was worth it. Yet, there is a lot of potential for it. Hopefully they make it more aesthetically pleasing and offer more services that students would actually use.”

John Doctor, associate director of facilities and maintenance at the student center, explained that the project should not be taken at face value. Included in the revamp was the renovation of walls, ceilings, the fire system and lighting and storm drain pump alarm panels in the area.

“A smaller budget would not have been as successful with depth of the deliverables, the specifications needed, added services and value added,” he said. “I’ve personally received great positive feedback that the desk has a ‘cool, iconic’ look to it where you can reserve a room, have better access to Wi-Fi and see the Muni schedule.”

Not everyone is as enthusiastic as Doctor. According to Matt Bacon, a computer science major, the large sum of money it took to renovate was not spent wisely.

“The older information desk was useful because it was made for business,” Bacon said. “The info desk does not need to be fun; it just needs to be helpful. It does not matter what technology or design is used. People will go there when they need something, not just for fun.”

The 22-year-old was headed to the space for tabling permits and also to check BART info. The fact that the television screen displays these times on a rotating basis annoyed him.

“Any info posted on the screens is useless unless I need info on the quick. I’d rather look at a poster or piece of paper with the exact information I need. I don’t know how much of the student fee was spent on it, but in the end that does not matter. Wasteful spending is still wasteful spending, no matter where the money comes from,” he said.

Doctor does not share the same sentiment.

“There can be times where students don’t have a platform to access the internet. Student staff at the information desk can assist with the process of room reservations, events, giving and showing directions and answer any questions guests may have,” he said. “The information we provide is not just general, but includes detailed and guidance for students in navigating the campus or learning about procedures, departments and events on campus.”

There seems to be no clear-cut view on the remodel, except that many students are looking for more money to go toward their education, rather than the aesthetics of campus buildings.

“The futuristic styling makes me feel as though I am walking through a science fiction school. I don’t see anything bad about it, I’m all for avant-garde tables,” Max Maddox, 19, a broadcast electronics and communication major, said. “But don’t get me wrong, if we’re spending money that could go somewhere else, I would rather see it not go to waste on desk renovation.”