University of Iowa replaces student union hotel with ‘mental health center’

A cafeteria, shown here in 2015, is one of the student facilities on the ground floor of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The floor was closed after the 2008 floods and reopened in 2015. (The Gazette)

(File photo) The Iowa Memorial Union on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY — As the University of Iowa student union celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2025, administrators expect the center of campus to be deep in an $81.1 million renovation that will includes exchanging its historic Iowa House hotel for a new “campus wellness and mental health center.”

“The current Iowa House Hotel, which will close in late 2023 or early 2024, will be converted into space for services such as student counseling and student care, and will be close to other student services already located in the Iowa House Hotel. IMU,” according to the Unemployment Insurance Bureau. strategic communications.

Renovations to the 326,729-square-foot Iowa Memorial Union — built in 1925 at the corner of Jefferson and Madison streets adjacent to Hubbard Park — will begin in summer 2024 and bring together a range of wellness and mental health services under under one roof, including clinical care and advice.

Other student welfare and care programming resources planned for the new center include the User Interface Pantry and case management services for students in emergencies, according to the Office of the strategic communication of the user interface.

“Bringing together so many wellness and mental health services for students in one place will allow them to address multiple facets of their physical and mental health needs simultaneously,” said UI Vice President for Health. student life, Sarah Hansen, in a statement. “Collocating these services to the center of campus makes them more accessible and ensures our students have the support they need to excel in their Iowa experience.”

Planned IMU renovations — a decade after UI reestablished its union, devastated by the 2008 flood — also include updated meeting space, ballrooms, function rooms and dining options. day.

The total cost of the project is $81.1 million, divided into two phases “to allow for the continued use of as many spaces as possible during the process.” Unemployment Insurance officials hope to complete the first phase, at a cost of $63.7 million, in time for the union’s 100th anniversary in 2025.

Phase two is expected to cost the remaining $17.4 million — with Unemployment Insurance planning to spend $20 million of the total in the coming budget year; $40 million in fiscal year 2025; and $20 million in fiscal year 2026, according to UI five-year facilities plan.

Funding for the project will come from donations, revenue bonds, and new enrollment fees of $100 to $120 per semester. The university’s Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Government have proposed and argued that the fees take effect around the start of construction.

Mental health needs

Centralizing and unifying student mental health and wellbeing services feeds into a key tenet of IU’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan to foster “holistic wellbeing and success” by providing a “comprehensive foundation support for individuals at all stages of their relationship with the university. ”

“Its people are the University of Iowa’s most important resource,” according to the plan, which debuted at a time of heightened mental health awareness in the wake of a pandemic that has upended the higher education and disrupted students in training in their teens and early twenties.

“The pandemic has forced the university to engage in new ways of teaching and working, and has underscored the importance of attention to health and well-being,” according to the insurance plan. -unemployment. “These experiences have informed a series of strategies to better support the success and well-being of people in the university as individuals and as a community.

Although enrollment at UI has tended to decline in recent years, its college counseling service has seen an expansion – even an explosion – in demand for its services, forcing it to integrate providers into colleges and residence halls. universities, to offer more group and online services and to seek more mental services. state support specific to health.

Within the Student Health UI, psychiatric visits are increasing even as demand for other services has fallen in recent years. UI Student Health reported 3,400 psychiatric visits in fiscal year 2022, compared to less than 3,000 in 2019. Going back to 2018, UI psychiatric visits increased by 40%, according to a recent health report students.

The university – after years of researching, planning and considering several options for an on-campus “wellness and mental health center” – identified the redeveloped space in IMU as the “plan the most practical, the most expedient and the most profitable”.

IMU History

The Iowa House Hotel offers a range of double, queen and king rooms and suites with river views and a capacity of two to six people for a cost of $95 to $220 a night, depending on the time of year . Amenities include complimentary access to the campus fitness center, campus shuttle, and all IMU services.

The union – which opened in 1925 – has for nearly a century of existence provided some form of on-campus dining, housing and employment. Over the years it has evolved into a form of entertainment venue – offering games, hosting concerts and hosting speakers, politicians and the board of regents.

The Syndicate opened an alcohol-free nightclub in the 1930s and added a bowling alley, snack bar and pool area in 1955. The 2008 flood devastated the Syndicate – like so many other buildings on campus – and UI in 2015 unveiled its restored IMU, including an updated food court, cafe, and places for learning.

By reinvesting in the syndicate, UI is also meeting the deferred maintenance needs of the aging building, which amounts to up to $55 million. Replacing the entire union would cost about $245 million, unemployment insurance officials reported, citing the decision to go for $81.1 million in upgrades.

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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