#TBT to when the Emerald called the EMU ‘pregnant’

With construction blocking off The Fishbowl and The Buzz, the EMU is mostly empty. But in 1967, students at University of Oregon had the opposite problem.

The Emerald published a four-page piece that was equal parts photo essay, editorial and report on the status of the Erb Memorial Union on October 30, 1967. The piece plastered lyrics from The Dovells’ “You Can’t Sit Down” under photos of a student looking for a place to sit, and above a photo of a packed EMU Ballroom where students spread all the way to the distance. “Erb Memorial Pregnant Union” said the headline.

When the EMU was built in 1950, there were only 5,637 students enrolled at UO. At the time this article came out, there were 13,865, and only one addition had been made.

The Fishbowl was overcrowded, and so was the dining area. The article states that in the Fishbowl, dining areas, “Bottom-of-the-Bowl” (a proto-The Buzz, apparently) and Taylor Lounge, the average occupancy in 1966 was ninety percent, were 15 percent above the national standards level.

Room bookings went fast–usually most weekends were booked in May for the school year beginning that fall. Administrators had to share offices.

Efforts had just begun on extending the EMU–the EMU director had submitted a request to the director of vampus planning to almost double the size of the EMU, adding 125,000 square feet. But the state would have to approve the money, and most requests were turned away at the time.

“There’s just no more money now,” director of facilities Jack Hunderup said. He surmised that it might be 1973 or 1974 before the addition could be open.

At the time, students paid $10 per term in incidental fees, and it was all for buildings–the students didn’t really control it (now the students pay over $200 a term, and there’s a separate fee–$45–for buildings). But the money was going toward academic buildings, and this editorial was calling for student fees to be used to extend the EMU.

“We are not denying the need for academic buildings,” the editorial said. “But we feel it is wrong that the $10 per term paid by students for special purpose buildings should be used to supplement general funds in the construction of academic buildings.”

The editorial talked about how students had voted in 1925 to start this fund, and now they had lost control of it.

“The crowding of Erb Memorial Union is one of the first visible results of that loss,” the editorial said.

Unfortunately, it seems the editorial did little for the crowding–as Hunderup predicted, it wasn’t until 1973 that the West Addition became operational in the EMU.  But one thing has changed: Now, the incidental fee is controlled by student government and goes to student organizations like the Emerald.

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Scott Greenstone

Scott Greenstone

Rehabilitated ex-homeschooler, former Emerald Senior News Editor, editor-in-chief of The Broadside at Central Oregon Community College, and freelance blogger for Barnes and Noble.

Now I write campus politics. Easy conversation starters include Adventure Time, Terry Pratchett novels and Arcade Fire.