"A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
– Frank Lloyd Wright
Volume 74 | Issue 3
May 2006

Union Spotlight: The Paul Robeson Campus Center at Rutgers University-Newark


The college union at Rutgers University–Newark was founded in 1968. The facility that currently houses the college union, the Paul Robeson Campus Center, was built in 1976. Paul Robeson is one of Rutgers’ most famous alumni. An African-American, he graduated from Rutgers in 1919 and went on to Columbia Law School. Rather than pursue a career in law, he went on to become an artist, activist, and actor, using his art to promote civil rights and tolerance.

Additions to the Paul Robeson Campus Center were made in 1979 and 1993. In 2005, the dining experience at the college union was overhauled with the addition of a Quizno’s Subs and a Starbucks. Prior to that, the Rutgers community dined at an outdated food court originally built in 1980. “The time for a complete renovation had come,” said Thomas Korp, assistant director of the college union. Student surveys indicated a strong preference for these two specific branded food concepts. The two food-court renovation projects, which involved a 25,000 square-foot area, cost a total of $525,000 and were funded by the institution.

Unique features

On a commuter campus, the Paul Robeson Campus Center plays an especially important role for students who live off campus. For them, the center is the “on-campus living room,” Korp said. Meal plans are available for students, faculty, and staff who eat frequently at the food court, which also includes a cafeteria. The Scarlet Raiders games room has both board games and video games, table tennis, air hockey, and foosball. The Robeson Art Gallery shows a variety of work by students. The Samuels Plaza is a large, warm-weather meeting spot for the campus community.

The college union operates on an annual budget of $3.1 million, with a large portion of funding coming from its auxiliary services such as its games room, branded food concepts, and conference services.

Students’ role

Students work at the Paul Robeson center in clerical positions, as reservations assistants, house-crew workers, audiovisual specialists, and as building managers.


Most student organizations are based at the college union and hold varied events there. For instance, a recent week saw an antiwar rally, potluck dinner, and a games night scheduled to take place. A searchable, online database allows users to look up events by entering their locations, dates, and category.

The college union has been host to some notable concerts, by artists such as Carlos Santana and Naughty By Nature. The Marian Thompson Wright Lecture Series is a long-running event that has taken place every February for the past 26 years. It is considered the longest-running tribute to Black History Month in the state of New Jersey. This year’s lecture, a daylong event, focused on creativity in the black community and was titled “Black Creativity and Modern American Life.” Wright was a pioneer in African-American studies and race relations in New Jersey in particular.

One event that stands out among the union’s long history of scheduling is a mayor’s conference in the late 1990s. Future governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, was the host. His role required him to wear a body microphone, which he neglected to turn off during the conference’s lunch break. McGreevey’s mens-room conversation, as well as the flushing of toilets, was broadcast over loud speakers to approximately 300 people who were still sitting in the multipurpose room. McGreevey, New Jersey mayor from 2002–04, resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair with his homeland security aide, a man who had threatened to sue him for sexual harassment.

Rutgers University–Newark
Newark, N.J.
Urban, commuter, public, four-year
Full-time enrollment: 6,000

The Paul Robeson Campus Center
Director: Darryl B. Holloman
Size: 83,000 sq. ft.
floors: 3
Built: 1976
operating budget: 3.1 million
Student staff: 60
Non-student staff: 8