Outside rentals end for Marvin Center space

All Marvin Center space will now be exclusively reserved during the academic year for student- and University-sponsored events, the University announced Friday evening.

In the past, outside organizations could pay to reserve rooms in the Marvin Center but, beginning Oct. 1, the space “will be reserved solely for student and University-sponsored events,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

“Many of the outside organizations tended to rent space in the Marvin Center for several hours or all day and reserved more than one, and in some cases multiple, meeting rooms,” Sherrard said in an e-mail. “As a result, many of the meeting spaces were unavailable to University groups.”

Sherrard did say that outside organizations could be involved in events that use space in the Marvin Center as long as GW has “an active part in the programming.” She declined to comment on how much revenue the University earned in recent years while renting out the space, but Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the financial impact of the change has been considered.

“Changes in revenue have already been incorporated into the University’s budget for FY 09-10,” Chernak said in an e-mail. “The higher priority is to make more space available for our primary mission and to better accommodate students and faculty.”

The need for additional student space has become a hot-button issue over the past few years, as the number of student groups has grown and the amount of student space has roughly stayed the same.

Student Association President Julie Bindelglass said this is something the SA has been advocating for since before this year. She said that she, along with Executive Vice President Jason Lifton, have continued to lobby the University on the issue since they took office in May.

“The Marvin Center is student space. It is our student union, our student center, and so we’re both so ecstatic that this was passed,” she said.

Student organizations are not charged money to rent space in the Marvin Center, but if the organization wants to have food at its event, they must use Sodexo catering. In addition, if the event needs security, they must pay for the University Police Department’s services.

From Sept. 1, 2008 to May 15, 2009, the Marvin Center hosted approximately 520 outside events, said Michael Peller, who formerly served as managing director of the Marvin Center and University Conferences. Peller will now serve in a newly created position as assistant vice president for events and venues.

In 2004, the University conducted a study that said Marvin Center space had increasingly been used for non-University events over the course of the previous seven years.

“[Executive Vice President and Treasurer] Lou Katz, Bob Chernak and I have talked about this change over the past several months,” Lorraine Voles, vice president for External Relations, said in an e-mail. “I personally talked with students from the SA, Program Board and Marvin Center Governing Board. The goal was always to make more space available to students at the lowest cost.”

Voles will now oversee a majority of the major venues on campus, including all outdoor University spaces, 1918 F St., 1957 E St., the Marvin Center, Lisner Auditorium and the Jack Morton Auditorium.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to centralize the venues and the events staffs to avoid duplication of effort and make the system work more efficiently,” Voles said.

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