Memo, "The Student Union Activities Building"


Memo, "The Student Union Activities Building"


Burnett, Edgar Albert, 1865-1941
College buildings
Student unions


Chancellor E. A. Burnett wrote this memo to describe what the Student Union (or Nebraska Union, or Student Activities Building; it had several names) would be used for on the University of Nebraska campus. He discusses the many different uses for the building, whether it be for dining, leisure, or even activities or events put on by a student organization. He discusses the many benefits this will provide the campus, such as the increased responsibility of the students with creating activities to productively use their leisure time.


Burnett, Edgar Albert, 1865-1941


RG 52-02-00, Buildings & Grounds Files, Box 21


Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries


1937, Feb.


To inquire about usage, please contact Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries. These images are for educational use only. Not all images are available for publication.


The new Student Union Activities Building on the city campus of the University of Nebraska is very necessary as a place where students can study or relax when not in classes or supervised work. There are likely to be 1000 students at any time between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. waiting for the next meeting of a class and without sufficient time to go to their home or living quarters. Rest rooms or recreation rooms are not now provided by the University for such students. Under such circumstances a recreation building is one of the most necessary on the campus.

The need for such a student center has been recognized by authorities of all universities and colleges for many years. In 1935 a petition signed by more than 3,000 students was presented to the Nebraska Regents, asking them to apply for a Federal grant of 45 per cent of the cost of such building on PWA (Public Works Administration) funds. This student petition agreed to finance the balance of the cost by a small semester fee. On January 11, 1936 the Board of Regents approved an activities building to cost $400,000 and made application to the Federal authorities for a grant of $180,000 on PWA funds as an aid in financing the project. At the same time they agreed to furnish heat, light and janitor services without cost and to supply the site. In October last the Federal grant was approved, requiring construction to begin before January 11, 1937 and completion of the building by January 11, 1938. The cost, including the student semester fee, will be less than is now paid by students attending parties held in downtown halls.

Much better student supervision can be provided, with this building in use than is now possible. The tendency to break over University rules will be less. The needs of the unorganized student body will have especial attention. The Union will soon become the center of all student activities. It will be a place where student friendships are formed, it will provide a melting pot for student opinion. It will furnish new opportunities for the development of student initiative and student leadership. The concentration of student activities in this one building under a competent board upon which student representation is equal with that of the faculty will be a harmonizing influence making for understanding and good will.

This new building will furnish a hitherto unknown comfort for those who are strenuously at work during a large portion of the day. There will be a competent manager in charge with necessary assistants to supervise the various activities centered here. The use of the building will be under a board of managers made up of faculty, students and alumni representatives. A cafeteria will offer wholesome food to students at a low price. Service will be continuous from early morning until late at night. A fountain and lunch service will also be open continuously. A lounging room with comfortable chairs will accommodate several hundred persons at one time. Many conference rooms for student organizations will be available. All student activities will be centered here. A large ballroom will be provided for student parties. A smaller ballroom will care for the smaller groups. No form of student activity has been overlooked.

The architects for the building are Davis & Wilson who have built many of the newer buildings on this campus. Plans and specifications are nearing completion and will soon be advertised for bids. There is every reason to believe that the building will be ready for use before the time named in the PWA grant, namely, next January.

A site has been secured on the north side of R Street east of Fourteenth Street. Contracts to raze the seven houses standing on this land went to an Omaha firm, and the work completed Martin-Day Company of Lincoln received the contract for excavation for the new building. This excavation will soon be completed, though delayed by previous contractor.

Some complaint is heard that so much of the cost is charged against the students. The cost of operation will be absorbed in part by the University which will furnish heat, light and limited janitor service. The additional cost above present fees will be $2.00 per semester, $1.00 is being turned from the health service fee to make up for the $3.00 required. The entire fee paid by students will be less than that of many union buildings where maintenance only is charged.

This building has been long delayed, but it is now enthusiastically endorsed by the student body. The new comforts and companionship provided for students should develop new loyalty and appreciation towards the University by future alumni.


"Student Activities Building" by Chancellor E. A. Burnett, page 1
Page 2 of "Student Activities Building" by Chancellor E. A. Burnett


Burnett, Edgar Albert, 1865-1941 , “Memo, "The Student Union Activities Building",” Nebraska U, accessed May 23, 2019,