I’ve been struggling for a topic for a couple weeks now while making my way through a couple of longer books, and finally settled on developing further a quick bit from my presentation with Jessi Eaton at ACUI’s 2014 Annual Conference.
So, I present a portion of a longer piece, All I Need to Know About Student Affairs, I Learned from Star Trek, which looks at the USS Enterprise as a Student Union, and how the two can compare in their mission, operations, spaces, and resources.
This is low quality, but perfectly hilarious.
You may be like, zomg, Joel’s gone off the deep end, but just bear with me, this is a fun topic I think. And yes, I realize there are some significant differences, especially when I have to wait 15 minutes for a grilled chicken sandwich in the food court when Picard just gets to roll up to a Replicator for a “Tea… Earl Grey… Hot.”
So, let’s get to it shall we.
“Ten Forward is the hub of the ship’s social activity. Everyone on board comes here.“
– Jean-Luc Picard
Ten Forward is a lounge and recreation facility located on Deck 10, section 1 of a Galaxy-class starship. (TNG: “Power Play”, “Deja Q”) Ten Forward has much the same function as a mess hall on smaller starships.
Freaking Wil Wheaton.
Sound familiar? 10 Forward, the social hub of the ship, serves multiple capacities, including bar, game room, concert hall and performance space, and more. Like a true third place
, everyone is welcome, whether you are an Admiral, an ambassador, or a Red Shirt who dies in the next scene.
Much like a pub or a coffee house in our union buildings, and other buildings around campus, these areas serve as a social and programming space to encourage interaction, engagement, and community building if utilized as such. A place to come together and chat, or to do campus karaoke on Tuesday nights, or the perfect venue for Grad/Prof Trivia, these spaces in our buildings are also open to the entire university community: faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members.
They are a place for socialization and learning (Ohio Union’s collaboration with Hospitality Services academic programs), are multi-functional, but all in all, inclusive, inviting, and community building.
Bridge design may have changed over the various iterations of the Enterprise, but, it still remains a hub of its own, directing and coordinating action for the rest of the ship and crew, serving as the brain of the Enterprise’s functions.
Really, we could compare this to two distinct areas in our unions: the Administrative Suites as well as Student Organization Office Spaces. Both of these areas are working in the same vein as the Bridge, directing the operations of the union and what is going on within it, and coordinating the various functions that help the union run smoothly at impulse (winter break) or warp speed (orientation).
The beauty of the Bridge/Admin Suite/Student Org Offices is that they bring together various specialties and stations (Engineering, Communication, Navigation, Science, Security) to provide the best possible answers and ideas to the problems and situations at hand. Admin Suites and Student Organization Offices do this as well, as a solution from the marketing department of the Union may solve a fraternity and sorority life problem, basically Data coming up with a kick-butt creative theme for the winter mixer.
“Data, for the 4th year in a row, since getting Spot the cat, suggests ‘The Cat’s Pajamas’ as the theme for the ship’s annual StarBall.”
The driving force of the Enterprise, the engines and warp drive are an essential piece of our unions, just like our physical plants, our storage areas, our basement hallways that connect catering kitchens with ballrooms, our loading docks, and our janitorial and facilities staff.
Now, when it comes to the engines, we have our specialists, like Scotty or Geordi, but the remainder of the staff should have some sort of understanding or knowledge of these systems, so that in an emergency, and the specialist can’t be found, someone can immediately respond with some idea of what to do. This speaks a lot to cross-training our staffs, and ensuring that even though they may work in the Information Center, they are aware of some of the more vital pieces of how the union works and initial steps in a tense situation.
My reaction when “holodeck funny gif” only returns super inappropriate, but funny, Riker/Holodeck/Rule 34 images. So, no gif for you.
This is one of my favorite comparisons because currently in the union construction/renovation biz, flexibility is the key for ballrooms/multipurpose rooms/etc. and if there is any space on the Enterprise that screams flexibility, it’s the Holodeck (srsly, think about it: Shakespeare <—> Boat <—> Worf’s Klingon Ritual Space).
We are going through a major look at how much construction or spaces cost these days, and flexibility gives us the best bang for our buck. A ballroom that can serve in many different styles, structures, layouts, and functions will also beat out, cost wise, a tiered, fixed-seat theater. That is what the holodeck offers to the Enterprise, a chance to relax, train, learn, reflect, or play a little Jazz Trombone.
You know what I’m talking about Riker… you creep.
So, just like a holodeck, think about if you have a space in your union that is the definition of flexibility, a space that can be utilized for most any event and can succeed in almost any configuration. This will be helpful in offering space for unique events and more users, and may be more cost effective than other room types.
The Enterprise in Crisis
There are no gifs easily accessible of saucer separation on the interwebs. Not cool dude, not cool.
What am I trying to get at here though? The Enterprise and the Union in crisis. Whether is it a major disaster event in our city, a weather related shutdown on campus, or a power outage, often our Unions are the safe place and the gathering place for the campus community. We often have plenty of power backup, we often include essential systems, we often have dining and food operations, and we have lots of space for folks to gather for safety. The Enterprise has a similar function, the Battle Bridge and the separation of the saucer section. In order to save the maximum number of people on board, it is sometimes necessary for a major evacuation to take place via the saucer section and for essential staff to remain behind for the fight or for protection on the battle bridge.
I remember at Wooster, even though none of my responsibilities resided in the campus center, I was essential staff during a major weather emergency, and the gathering place for the campus community for ultimate safety was the campus center. We are a gathering place for our community, we are there to serve the campus community, and so we need to be well-versed in how to serve our campus during crisis.
Would love to hear your thoughts on how the Union relates to the Enterprise, or other sci-fi concepts, and of course, a big thanks and hug to friend Jessi for helping me develop these concepts from the get-go.
Enjoy August, peeps.