The Daily Gamecock

Column: The potential Russell House expansion could be a good thing for USC

<p>Gamecock Park, an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall, is pictured inside Russell House on March 13, 2024. Potential upgrades to Russell House have been proposed to accommodate the growing number of students at the university.</p>
Gamecock Park, an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall, is pictured inside Russell House on March 13, 2024. Potential upgrades to Russell House have been proposed to accommodate the growing number of students at the university.

For many USC students, Russell House is a popular place to convene, eat, study and get work done. Whether they're picking up a bagel from Einstein Bros. after class, attending a meeting in one of the ballrooms or swiping a CarolinaCard for access to the dining hall, this student union is at the forefront of students’ college experience. 

However, many have spent over an hour waiting for their Einstein Bros. order to be ready, have gotten lost trying to find the room they are supposed to meet in or have been trampled by what feels like the entire university trying to eat dinner at the same time. 

But now, with the new Russell House expansion proposal, the student union could become much bigger. This would give students the chance to do everything they have done before — just with more breathing room. The architectural blueprints boast a vast, open space with lots of seating, grand staircases and skylights that the sun is able to shine through. 

Although many details about this estimated $240 million project have yet to be developed and shared with students, first-year international business and finance student Kaleigh Erler has ideas about what the new student union should include to make for a quicker, easier student experience. 

Erler, a member of USC's Freshman Council, advocates adding more restaurants for students with allergies, more study spaces and more meeting spots for clubs and student organizations throughout the student union.  Because Russell House is such a central part of students' college experience, it needs to be able to accommodate them all, she said. 

“It’s the hub of all of campus,” Erler said. “That’s probably the one place you’ll see all four years come together.”


Expanding Russell House and making its components more efficient could accomplish Erler's vision, allowing the student union to play a more integral role in the everyday lives of USC students. 

USC is known to have the best first-year student experience across public colleges in the United States, but Erler said Student Government wants to extend that to other years as well.

“While we do focus a lot on our freshmen, I think we also need to take into account there’s the upper levels too that need just as much support, if not more," Erler said. "Providing them with those resources too and making them feel like they’re a part of the community still, even if they’re off campus ... (is) an important point.” 

Additionally, having a more open-concept student union would allow students to sit and eat comfortably instead of struggling to find an open table. 

“Expanding (Russell House), making it more open, more of a food court, like in a mall — It’s kind of like what my friends have at Alabama. It’s very nice,” Erler said. 

By increasing the size of the building and adding more seating areas, less people would have to crowd around the restaurants in giant masses, which would create a less stressful environment for students and workers alike. 

The health center behind Russell House, known as the Thomson Building, would also become a dining hall, which would make the area as a whole feel more cohesive. Although this health center offers many beneficial resources, such as quiet meditation rooms and counseling services, its hidden location often prevents students from discovering them.

Even though the proposal estimates that this project would not be complete until summer 2028, that does not mean USC would not accommodate people in the meantime. The Thomson Building would become a dining hall in summer 2026 — two years before the new student union would be finished. This would allow students to still eat and socialize with each other, even while the rest of Russell House is under construction.

There are many other dining options on campus that students could explore while they wait for the possible construction to be done. Dining halls such as Gibbes Court, Honeycomb Cafe and Community Table are all places where students can grab a bite to eat, do homework and socialize. Greene Street is also known for its food trucks and farmers markets, where students can get breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The potential expansion of Russell House is something for all students to look forward to, regardless of their graduation date. Having a larger, more efficient student union can strengthen bonds between students, increase their productivity and give them a greater sense of belonging on campus. Not to mention, it would also give USC a new and improved look that students will be proud to be a part of. 


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