Photo by Matthew Taylor | Student staff at work in the SAC (previously the UC) on March 31.
Photo by Matthew Taylor | Student staff at work in the SAC (previously the UC) on March 31.

A University Center hidden on campus

While the UC can still be found on campus, it has become a husk of its former self.
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by Matthew Taylor

The University Center (UC) is a husk of what it used to be since its contract was terminated by Cal Poly Humboldt’s administration back in December of 2020. Before then it was an auxiliary organization to the university in charge of many student events and activities. Many members had been left hurt, with most refusing to speak on the record due to a fear of legal or social reprimand by the university. A majority of the UC’s responsibilities have been transferred to the Student Activity Center. In its current state, the UC exists to provide pensions to its retirees and use reserve funds for various student programs. There are some members, however, who see its end as a bittersweet conclusion.

“In my position, I see both sides,” said Wendy Sotomayor, UC Executive Director and Student Activity Center Director, the bittersweet sadness in her voice apparent throughout the interview. “I’m excited but I’m also sad. The UC was very valuable and did a lot of good for the students here. In the end, though, I think the students are getting a better package.”

She expressed, along with many of her colleagues, that she still saw the letter of termination as the administrations ‘means to an end’, but also saw the validity in the problems stated within it. In some ways, the UC’s own response to the administration may have further solidified its decision to end the contract.

“Our response didn’t really include any [tangible] changes to the actual administration’s complaints,” Sotomayor said.

Much of the mistakes made by the UC at the time, referenced in the letter of termination, were based simply on miscommunication and misunderstanding. Certain allegations, such as that of fraud, were later confirmed to be completely unfounded. Still, legitimate mistakes existed and deserved to be fixed. The financial risk of loaning the Arcata Community Pool $300,000 was huge in hindsight of the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to its distant relationship to the university didn’t qualify well under “its mission”. Steps were made to fix these problems before termination, but in the eyes of the university’s administration that wasn’t enough.

“We couldn’t fix it after the fact,” Sotomayor said.

The introduction of lawyers to the mix didn’t make the situation any better in her eyes either. Instead of coming to the table it became only lawyers talking to lawyers. In the end, lawyers on each side may have convinced them that each was totally in the right.

“[Many UC members] wholeheartedly believed they did nothing wrong,” Sotomayor said, expressing that at the time even she felt similarly.

Since the termination, the administration has given most of UC’s previous tasks to the Student Activity Center. The program controls Center Arts, General Operations as well as a new program called Conference and Event Services (CES). Center Activities is now under Athletics and is located at the Student Recreation Center (SRC).

“So much personal feelings got involved,” Sotomayor said. “And [I’m] not sure we could have gotten [to where the SAC currently is ourselves].”

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