Flashback Post: Reflections on the BTSU at BGSU

March 15, 2009

I was poking around some web search stuff, and happened across this piece I’d written back in 2003. I found it rather interesting, as I know that my own writing style has changed a bit, though I imagine one would see PLENTY of familiarity between my writing then, vs. now. Given I haven’t posted to this blog for awhile (primarily just been posting my comic reviews to Comic Reviews by Walt), I thought I’d post this today.

Reflections on the Bowen-Thompson Student Union at BGSU, from its opening at the start of Spring Semester 2002 thru the end of Spring Semester 2003.

When I first started at BG, the Union (to me) had an atmosphere of some sort of OLD established all-ages bar ‘n grille. I personally, throughout my entire first semester only set foot in the union a handful of times; only one of those with the purpose of eating.

When the New Union (BTSU) opened, the newness of it that first semester probably gave it an “inflated” atmosphere/traffic rate, as everyone would want to try it out at least once; to say nothing of the fact that so many campus organizations insisted on holding stuff in the union, “forcing” students to flock to it.

Last year, my senior year, the newness had worn off, at least in the initial phase. It was there from the start for the new/incoming students, and those of us who remembered the time when there was NO student union had gotten used to having a union again.

Perhaps my own experience(s) are unique, perhaps not, but I speak here for myself, of my own observations.

My class schedule was such that nearly all of my classes were tues/thurs, ranging from 9:30am til 9pm. As most of these classes were spread out among Eppler, Education, Business, and Olscamp (even had one in Hanna), I was very nearly on the opposite end of campus from my residence hall/room. As such, the Union became my “headquarters”–the place that I’d return to between classes, be it to relax, eat, do homework, buy supplies/books, use the internet, or whatever else needed doing. Though I’d griped initially about the union as a whole, and hated that everything seemed to force students to spend time in it, it came to be a relaxing, comfortable place for me.

In the morning, it seemed like a lot of people would meet in the Falcon’s Nest area to get breakfast, or perhaps coffee at the Carnation Cafe.

Around lunchtime (11:30-2:30), the union was jam-packed. One could almost tell the time just based on how crowded the union was–if a lot of classes just let out, it was almost like a wave of people sweeping into the union for food and other necessities.

The “commons” area outside the falcon’s nest generally was filled–if you wanted to sit alone, you’d have to find some other place to go; and unless you’d gotten there early to “hold” a table, you’d have to either find someone you know to sit with, or wander til you saw someone getting up (and hope they were actually leaving).

Partway through fall semester, I started doing lunch regularly with one of my best friends. Given how croweded the “commons” was, we noticed that there were usually “open” tables/seating in the section blocked off as the Carnation Cafe, and began taking our meals over there to sit and eat.

As the year progressed, even the Cafe came to be almost-always filled, with people hanging out solo, having meals, meeting friends, teachers, bosses, etc. We wound up by midway through spring semester having a small group of “regulars”–three of us forming a “core”, but each of us often inviting/bringing others to have meals at our lunchtime, and in general, we often claimed as much as 1/4 of the cafe’s seating with our group.

Since I doubt that our group was completely unique on the surface, I imagine there were plenty of other groups of people who met regularly in the union, for actual meetings, meals, and simply as a place to go and kill time between classes without having to go back to the residence halls or off-campus.

In the evenings, Wendy’s and Zza’s were open fairly late, and would sometimes be the ONLY places open on campus to go to, especially for hot food, so they attracted what appeared to be a steady stream of people throughout the evening/night hours.

Morning, afternoon, or evening, it seemed that part of the attraction of the union (for on-campus students, particularly) was that it operated just as any other dining facility on campus–you could use your meal plan. I personally never went anywhere without my keys, my PED, a pen, and my Student ID (walked off with no wallet or phone a number of times, though!). Knowing I carried the student ID/meal card, I knew that whether i simply got thirsty, or got hungry, i could stop in at the union for something, almost regardless of the hour.

Between classes when I would find a space in the union to just sit and read/study, it was also convenient knowing i could leave my stuff, and go get something to eat or drink, without worrying about cash.


My initial gripe with the union was that with its “grand opening” other dining facilities on campus seemed to alter hours and menus in an attempt to drive students to the union. The same went for last year, though by then I was used to it and “accepted it” (not without griping, though). Places like The Galley closed at 2 on fridays, to re-open 6pm sundays; the ‘dial had limited hours for each meal that SEEMED to change all the time, though i don’t think they actually did.

But overall, for weekends, particularly later in the spring semester, one would HAVE to go to the union if they wanted to eat a decent meal. For “holidays” and “breaks”, and the day or two leading up to/coming back from said events, the union was the only place that would have any real food available…specifically, that one could use a meal plan for (opposed to cash for pizza, jimmy john’s, and other call-and-deliver food places).

For all intents and purposes, if you didn’t have cash, and wanted something to eat, your best bet was to go to the union. Due to all this, the union seemed a sort of “default” location, one that most people would go to, to eat, meet, and socialize…which I suppose was the original intent/purpose of HAVING a student union…having it be a central place on campus, as much for on campus students as for off-campus/commuter students. “Everythign” was at the union, and all sorts of food/drink available at the union, since any food to be had at the union could come off the meal plan, it became little different than merely going to the ‘dial or the Galley; except that there were far more people always around, more chance to randomly bump into someone, and you had the bookstore, peregrine shop (bursarable), along with Stampers (“post office”), etc.