Cesar Chavez Student Center Celebrates its 30th Birthday
September 8, 2005 8:14 PM
It has hosted the likes of Bobby Seele to Michael Douglas. Jane Fonda to Rosa Parks. It has served as a movie set and as a center for some of San Francisco’s most famous protests. And this month the Cesar Chavez Student Center is celebrating its 30th birthday.
There have been sit-ins, speeches and thousands of other events held in the eclectic building. Its unique blueprint was designed by Paffard Keatinge Clay in 1970, in an attempt to combine sculpture and architecture.
“The exterior is alive in Clay's Student Union, stepped pyramids rise, angles thrust, permitting visual and physical exploration,” said Meredith M. Eliassen, a curator in the SF State Library, “And endless vantage points for loungers and observers.”
Today more than 95 percent of SF State’s roughly 28,000 registered students walk through the Cesar Chavez Student Center every time they are on campus.
Students rely on the union for many of their day to day needs; anything from grabbing a cup of coffee in the morning, relaxing between classes during the day or renting a movie on their way home.
“I just feel that it really brings students together because of the high percentage of commuters,” said Kristin Niemeyer, 23 an apparel merchandising major. “It’s a central place where you can get pretty much anything.”
This summer three of the union’s merchants renovated their own restaurants. In addition to their new look, Asia Express has expanded, the Gold Coast Grill added a self-serve salad bar and Italian Creations changed its name to Pizza and Pasta. The pub was also repainted.
“It was really nice all of the vendors decided to do their own renovations,” said Edina Bajraktarevic, retail/commercial services manager of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. “I can’t talk numbers, but let’s just say they all spent a lot of money.”
The idea of a student center dates back to 1936, when it was proposed by Dr. Lawrence L. Kinnaird, a member of the social sciences department. He envisioned a headquarters for all students to meet socially for informal relaxation and conversation. Unfortunately SF State didn’t have enough money and it was nearly 25 years later before students rallied together to raise funds and to begin designing the union. There was an enrollment fee increase, of which a small percentage would go toward the $8 million cost of the building.
Students remained completely in charge of the project. They initially chose Moshe Safdie to design the union, but the plans fell through and Clay replaced him in 1970. After years of planning and construction the doors finally opened on Sept. 9, 1975 to what we now know as the Cesar Chavez Student Center.
Since then many events have been held at the hub of campus. In 2004 alone there were roughly 2,200 events at the student union.
Monday kicked off the 30-day celebration of the union’s 30th anniversary. In addition to the daily food and music, the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center is hosting a seven-week film-viewing of the Third World Liberation Front and the 1960s student strikes on the SF State campus.
“Our Student Union building is like a time capsule for the early 1970s,” said Eliassen. “They could shoot an episode of That 70's Show today.”
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