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Eastern Washington University’s new student union opens

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 26, 2018

The new multicutural center of the Pence Student Union building is seen on EWU's campus in Cheney, Wash. on Oct. 26, 2018. The spacious, three-story building has many new features including a Pride center, career services and many new dining options including Panda Express. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
The new multicutural center of the Pence Student Union building is seen on EWU's campus in Cheney, Wash. on Oct. 26, 2018. The spacious, three-story building has many new features including a Pride center, career services and many new dining options including Panda Express. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

With the opening of the brand-new student union building, Eastern Washington University is defying its reputation as a budget institution.

That’s according to student body president Dante Tyler, who spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 students, staff and faculty who came to the ribbon-cutting of the new Pence Union Building, dubbed the PUB, on Friday.

It’s the culmination of two years of construction and $47 million.

“The PUB is really the heart of Eastern,” said Tyler. “Eastern is looked at as the cheap alternative school – it’s not.”

Tyler said that the new building will appeal to prospective students touring the campus.

The building – light and open, with an exterior of wood and glass – is a far cry from the old student union, which was relatively dark and offered few places to gather.

“Students are looking for spaces to interact,” said Amy Johnson, dean of students. “They want higher tech amenities.”

The new structure better reflects a higher-end workplace, she said.

Students can check out laptop and video game consoles, visit the new multicultural center, bookstore, career center, and eat at Panda Express or a market offering healthier options. They can play shuffle board, wait for buses near a cafe and visit the dean of students’ office.

“It’s extremely nice,” said sophomore Conner Krouse, and of the Panda Express – “It’s a pretty big deal.”

For student Baylee Buchanan, having the new union as a place to gather is something that’s been missing for the past few years of construction.

“We don’t really have any place right now for community engagement,” she said.

The three-story building is still undergoing some construction, as can be seen by the opaque plastic sheeting blocking off some of the rooms, and a “new building” smell was in the air.

“It’s going to be a magnet for the campus,” said EWU president Mary Cullinan.

The new PUB joins a cluster of new buildings on campus that give it a more modern feel. The school renovated Patterson Hall five years ago, and built a new residence hall, Snyamncut Hall. Next to the PUB, a new science building is being constructed. The science building, funded partly by $67 million from the state Legislature, will hold “high-end labs,” said EWU spokesman Dave Meany.

The PUB is named after Omer O. Pence, a teacher and administrator at the school from 1925 to 1954. The original building was finished in 1970 and expanded in 1994.

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