Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Possible Norris coffeehouse a good first step

Perhaps the best way to improve Norris University Center would be to tear it down and swap places with Arthur Andersen Hall, home of Kellogg. Kellogg students don’t normally interact with the rest of the campus anyway, aside from occasional run-ins at The Keg. Unfortunately Norris probably won’t become centrally-located, but there are ways Norris can improve its utility to students.

The proposed coffeehouse on the first floor of Norris is one of many relatively inexpensive and untried ways to transform Norris from a place students need to be, to a place they want to hang out. Sometimes the first floor of Norris seems more like a retirement community, with non-students surfing the Web on computers, than it does a student union. The coffee shop is one way to attract students for other reasons than meetings or buying books.

Some recent steps have been made to improve Norris, including adding a foosball table, an ICEE machine and the ever-popular Dance, Dance Revolution. Fast Break Fridays and other activities sponsored by Norris and the Center for Student Involvement try, with mixed results, to make Norris a fun place.

Norris Executive Director Rick Thomas told The Daily that a survey of 3,000 students last April revealed a coffee shop is a “clear priority” for students. But it is definitely not the only step that Norris should take to improve itself.

Currently, Norris seems more like an office building than a student center. And while Norris serves a purpose, and is a valuable asset to student groups and people holding meetings, it could easily be much more.

The best bet to make Norris an integral part of student life is to add a 24-hour restaurant and offer an alternative, any alternative, to Burger King. At 4 a.m. Saturday morning, it won’t matter what kind of food it is, or if it’s even edible, as long as it’s not Burger King. And if the crowds there are any indicator, it would also be highly profitable for the NU, or more likely, for Sodexho.

Norris Underground has been trying to attract more people to join in the fun. Instead of keeping the Norris Underground, well, underground, it should be moved to the first or third floor, perhaps swapping space with the student group offices that monopolize the third floor. As much as we hate to admit it, it’s probably not benefitting the rest of the campus for the Daily offices to have one of the best lake views on campus.

Even though Norris is not exactly centrally located, it is ideal for taking advantage of Lake Michigan. One way to do this is to add a lounge/restaurant on the roof, to best utilize the gorgeous panoramic views. More sitting areas and tables should also be added to make the lawns more useful.

Other viable suggestions include the often-heard idea of putting in a bowling alley in the basement that was proposed by the Senior Industrial Engineering class in 2004, like they have at the University of Illinois student center. Norris Outdoors could rent paddle boats for the Lagoon once the weather improves.

The worst part of this is that when prospective students come to Norris, they immediately compare it to what they’ve seen elsewhere. And while few prospective students decide where to go based on student centers, it certainly doesn’t help our case that ours, as a student aptly told The Daily, “looks like a mall that was built in ’88.” A simple redecoration to something classy and undated would at least give a good impression.

A coffeehouse will ideally provide a much-needed comfortable and common location for students to relax and socialize. It obviously won’t solve all of Norris’ problems.

But it’s a good start.

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Possible Norris coffeehouse a good first step