NU survey evaluates Norris’ use

Michelle Ma

About 3,000 students received an e-mail last week asking them to evaluate whether Norris University Center meets the needs of Northwestern’s campus.

Students who choose to participate in the Web-based survey will be entered into a drawing to receive prizes, including iPod Minis and iPod Shuffles. Students were randomly chosen to participate and have until April 15 to go online to complete the survey.

Norris’ Director Rick Thomas called the survey a “major” one that seeks to gauge how accommodating Norris’ facilities are for a representative sample of NU students.

The survey also asks students if they would be willing to assist in the funding of Norris renovations through increased student fees, and if so, how much they think is reasonable to contribute.

Because some public universities create a student fee to fund building and renovation projects, Thomas said this survey will try to determine if NU students would be willing to shoulder a similar burden.

“I’m interested to see what students think of that,” Thomas said. “Because this is such a common model of how student unions are funded, we thought we’d ask the question.”

He added that the survey questions are merely to gauge student interest and do not signify any definite plans of student help with fund raising.

The Web-based survey is another step in a lengthy assessment project to decide how to best renovate Norris.

The university has hired the outside consulting firm of Brailsford and Dunlavey to conduct surveys, focus groups and interviews with students, faculty and staff to compile a report and recommendation for plans to expand Norris. A report should be completed by the end of June for presentation to the Board of Trustees and President Henry Bienen, Thomas said.

The consulting firm has a tradition of planning student unions on college campuses. The details compiled from the firm’s research at NU would be passed on to an architect for construction.

“I think there’s merit in having an independent outside entity (helping),” Thomas said.

Last quarter, representatives from the firm facilitated multiple focus discussion groups to receive input about the benefits and drawbacks of Norris’ facilities. They drew from more than 60 students, faculty and staff at the meetings.

During Reading Week of Winter Quarter, the consultants met with about 70 students involved in Associated Student Government, including senators and Executive Board members. They broke into focus groups to discuss Norris, Thomas said. He added that he didn’t attend these groups because “I want students to feel free to talk.”

ASG representatives broke up into three groups to discuss Norris’ facilities, said Student Services Vice President Alex Lurie, a Communication junior.

Senators specifically were asked to participate in focus groups because consultants “wanted to talk to students on campus who could voice concerns for their constituencies,” Lurie said.

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected]