Posted April 7, 2011 by Scott Reed 

Lessons Learned with Student Organization Tenants

From a facilities perspective, this past year has been a year of new emphasis with student organizations granted dedicated office space in our main student union. Establishing protocols, a written agreement, safety training, and inspection process has proven to benefit both the union “landlord” and the student organization “tenant” at my institution.

With fifteen dedicated student organization spaces in our union at Virginia Tech, I have been involved in a long history of student organization relationships in overseeing our facilities areas. For years, I oversaw a system of bi-annual assessments for each group which included applications, interviews, leading an assessment team, and drafting proposals for office changes to upper administration. This system proved to be overly cumbersome, very time intensive, extremely political, and ultimately, didn’t produce desired results. Therefore, we have revamped our approach to student organization office space accountability that has proven to be cleaner and more beneficial from a tenant and landlord perspective.

Three main initiatives headed our efforts this year, targeted at core goals of appropriate office usage, safety, compliance, and communication. Our first goal was to organize, plan, and lead student organization safety training sessions early in the first term of the academic year. We held four different mandatory sessions at different times inviting organization officers and advisors. We trained them on numerous safety aspects from fire code to safety when leaving our facility after hours. From a liability standpoint, we had each attendee’s participation documented, leaving a trail of liability back-up in case issues occured throughout the year related to safety or security.

Secondly, we developed and initiated very thorough student organization “agreements” ultimately signed by our director, assistant vice president, an organization officer, and the advisor. The contract was a culmination of twenty years of learned lessons from this relationship. One key to these agreements is to allow time for feedback with your legal office to be incorporated. We also slipped in an educational aspect to the contract by highlighting the cost of a similar space, if rented to a tenant at the market rate. This highlighted the fiscal benefit to having space in the union, which aided an understanding that space is not owned by the group, but rented instead.

Our final initiative was to conduct random office inspections based upon contract agreements and the initial training. These simple, quick, monthly inspections bring the relationship plan full circle to assure compliance comes to fruition for both parties involved.

Overall, each of these initiatives took significant time to make successful but were well worth the effort in establishing a relationship of collegial, planned safety compliance.

In summary, the facility management landlord relationship with student organizations is critical to assure appropriate space utilization and compliance with safety and security. For our union, simplifying the process of accountability and communication has helped keep students safe while establishing needed relationships with union facility management. 

Scott Reed

Scott Reed is the Associate Director of Student Centers and Activities at Virginia Tech.

Scott oversees and directs services, operations, and facility management needs for four student center buildings. Through this role, he has overseen renovations, served on the campus sustainability committee, led safety planning for the union, and is currently co-chairing a facility management software transition team. A long time member and volunteer for ACUI, Scott received his bachelor’s in sports management from Western Carolina University and his master’s in kinesiology with a concentration in sports and recreation management from James Madison University.

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