Haskell’s student union remains shuttered during years-long repair project

Stidham Union on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University, pictured Friday, July 7, 2017. The Union closed in July 2015 after the HVAC system failed. The school is working to replace the building-wide HVAC system as well as other projects.

Haskell Indian Nations University has been without its student union for two years now, and will be for at least another six months.

Stidham Union closed for repairs in July of 2015, and the school is not projecting it will reopen until December or January, said Haskell spokesman Stephen Prue.

Haskell closed the 1965 building after determining that its old heating and cooling system, which had failed, could no longer be repaired, Prue said. He said Haskell must completely replace the system, including duct work throughout the building, which requires custom-engineering a new system to retrofit the facility.

The bidding process currently is underway, Prue said. It’s taken a significant amount of time to complete the design process, “given the structural demands of the building,” Prue said.

Haskell, a federal institution operated by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education, also must comply with cumbersome federal rules for the bidding and construction process.

Currently, Stidham Union on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University, is being used to store office furniture and other items until renovations occur.

Prue said the total project cost has not been finalized.

In recent years, Haskell conducted a comprehensive facilities study and took on a batch of repair, renovation and technology projects for campus facilities, totaling more than $4 million. No new buildings have been constructed on the campus since 1994, when Roe Cloud residence hall was built.

Going without a student union has negatively impacted campus life, some say.

“Having the student union out of commission has really hurt us; it has hurt us desperately,” faculty member Dan Wildcat told the Haskell National Board of Regents during the body’s spring meeting.

Wildcat said the union provided a place for students to gather and get coffee or something to eat, particularly after hours.

Tonia Salvini, Haskell vice president of university services, said Stidham’s closure has not heavily disrupted services.

“It certainly has historically been a central location for students to gather. We’ve tried to, at least in the interim, identify that place in Tecumseh Hall,” Salvini said.

Tecumseh, the student activities building, has a snack bar called the Grill House, she said. The Haskell Student Senate offices, which were in Stidham, have temporarily moved into Tecumseh, too.

Along with the heating and cooling system replacement, Haskell is taking on a couple other projects in Stidham while the building is closed, Salvini said.

For example, asbestos abatement is required in some areas where workers must move old tile during the project, she said. Plans also include new flooring and work that will improve handicap accessibility.

“We’re taking the opportunity to really upgrade the building as well,” Salvini said. “… The union is one of our better buildings, and we need to do it right.”