University of Wisconsin Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller announced the Red Gym, an iconic and historic landmark on campus, is no longer on the table as the Amazon pickup point Wednesday.
This decision came after students and faculty claimed the Red Gym was already overcrowded and longstanding campus procedures for decision-making were violated.
After student organizations raised concerns about the potential disruptions that could come from the Amazon activity, UW decided to relocate the pickup point.
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The pickup point would have occupied 2,200 square feet of space just inside the front door of the Red Gym. This location could have created long lines that blocked the entrance and shared meeting spaces.
“We take these concerns seriously and have agreed to work with our partners at Amazon to find a different location,” Heller said in a statement. “We continue to strongly believe this project will be a benefit to the university and campus community.”
Associated Students of Madison’s Shared Governance Committee Chair Omer Arain said UW’s decision bypassed shared governance procedures. Faculty, staff and students weren’t consulted throughout the entire decision-making process.
“It is already very tight and there isn’t a lot of space,” Arain said. “So we didn’t feel like it was appropriate to put Amazon there because the services provided in the Red Gym are very important and students need to feel safe.”
Arain said the most important thing is not where the new Amazon pickup point will be, but making sure building occupant feedback is taken into consideration.
Mary Rouse, assistant vice chancellor for Academic Affairs & Dean of Students Emerita, said in a statement if the longstanding campus procedures for decision-making had been honored, the University Committee and the Academic Staff Executive Committee would have had a better result.
The Red Gym is home to the LGBT Campus Center, International Student Services, the Center for Leadership and Involvement and the Multicultural Student Center.
The Red Gym was built in 1893 and designated as a National Historical Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1993.
The building became a major center of activity between 1988 to 1998 through Rouse’s efforts. Rouse contributed to the Red Gym’s historic preservation when many felt it should be torn down due to wear and tear over the past century.
During its historic preservation, Rouse solved the “well-documented” space shortages for a number of student programs and services by placing them all together under one roof.
The programs and services housed in the Red Gym were intentionally selected, Rouse said.
“Shared spaces were designed so that students would have many opportunities to meet and get to know each other as friends and peers and engage fully in student life inside and outside their classrooms,” Rouse said.
By making the Red Gym the Amazon pickup point, many building occupants felt that the true meaning behind the Red Gym’s shared space would not be honored.
UW will work with Amazon to find alternative locations that have less impact on building occupants and programs, Heller said.
The five-year contract with Amazon will benefit UW by earning the university a guaranteed $100,000 commission annually for five years or more, depending on sales. The Board of Regents expects the actual commission to be higher.
“The $100,000 per year rent may seem very tempting to the money starved campus administrators,” Rouse said. “But it is a paltry sum if you factor in the harm to students and student services and the ill it is likely to generate among many UW-Madison supporters and potential donors, in particular local merchants who compete with Amazon.”
Correction: The original version of this story misattributed information to Heller. This version has been corrected to appropriately reflect that it came from Rouse.