Memorial Union renovates over winter break

Memorial Union

James Trotter, News Contributor

During December, many students take advantage of winter break to rest and relax. While they’re gone, however, campus operations must go on, and many of the facilities on campus change up their day-to-day operations to accommodate the lower student traffic.

Deb Mott, the director of operations at the Memorial Union, said the MU takes advantage of the downtime and lower traffic to complete various maintenance and renovation projects that couldn’t be done during the school year.

“We have projects that we don’t necessarily do during working hours because they’re either noisy or dusty, or would somehow impinge on the working day of other folks,” Mott said. Some of the maintenance work that Mott’s team does includes deep cleaning the carpets and floors, completing routine kitchen maintenance and working on renovations.

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This past break, the repairs to the fireplaces in the MU lounge, which had been out of commission for the past year, were finished, Mott said. Additionally, Operations Coordinator Michelle Rucker, Carpenter Gary Beedle and Move Coordinator Eric Kerstetter worked over the break to transform the former MU Escape Room area into a new lounge area. According to Mott, the renovation cost the MU $60 in total between paint and repurposed furniture costs. 

Although renovations occur, many members of the MU student staff leave for the break. According to Mott, the 425 staff members that operate the restaurants, coffee shop, maintenances tasks, events and cleaning decreases to just 30 over winter break. 

“We’re still fully staffed, but our level of staffing changes to reduced hours and work,” Mott said.

In the case of inclement weather, the MU has designated several employees as essential so operations can continue if the power goes out.

“We’re one of the very few buildings on campus that has a generator. So we can maintain pretty close to full operations if we lose power,” Mott said. “If the university closes, we follow the closure. But our essential personnel will still be here to make sure that everything is still running and operating.”

If the residence halls were to experience a blackout, the MU would open its doors for those without power.

“Having that generator here has shifted, I don’t want to say our importance, but our ability to support the residents on campus,” Mott said.

University Housing and Dining Services director of operations and facilities, Brian Stroup, said that if Oregon State University decides to close due to weather conditions, the residence halls and dining centers remain open.

“Our staff is committed to providing the experience students need and expect even during a  break period and inclement weather,” Stroup said via email. “We assure that work within our facilities, including cleaning, the meals that we serve and the administration of our program continues throughout the entire year.”

According to Stroup, the dining halls consolidate to one location over the break due to the lower amount of student traffic, while service centers remain open.

Similarly, the recreational facilities shorten their hours of operation accordingly to remain open during the low-traffic break, according to assistant director of outreach and assessment for the department of recreational sports Tina Clawson.

During the term, Dixon Recreation center sees on average 5896 ID card swipes on weekdays, 1802 on Saturdays and 1619 on Sundays. Over breaks, weekdays see on average 2367 swipes, Saturdays see 467 and Sundays see just 305, according to Clawson.

Programming such as safety classes, club activity, wellness coaching and personal training are not offered during winter break due to the lack of traffic and staff, said Clawson.

Similar to the MU and UHDS, student payroll expenses decrease with the diminished programming and services over the break.

The department of recreational sports makes every effort to keep the Adventure Leadership Institute service desk open during the break in order to accomodate for the seasonal demand for outdoor rental equipment, said Clawson.

With winter break now over and the term underway, most facilities have returned to their normal operating hours.