By Tory Hernandez
Union fee up for vote
After a hour-and-a-half of discussion, the Associated Students Senate approved the referendum by a vote of 8-2.
The referendum will give students the choice whether to shoulder nearly half of the proposed $70 million of renovations to the Memorial Student Union. The $40 per semester fee would expire in 25 years or sooner, if the project debt gets paid.
Senators Cisco Aguilar and Summer Katzenback opposed the decision.
"By giving us this fee, the university is holding us very accountable," Katzenback said. "We should hold them accountable, too, and make sure we're not hit four ways."
She added the project could affect students through increased bookstore and Student Union prices, the fee itself and possible academic bonding.
Schools can sell debt on the open market in order to raise money for capital projects. Holders of bond certificates act as creditors.
To prevent this, Aguilar proposed and the Senate passed a friendly amendment to the referendum stipulating that academic bonding, which is linked to tuition, will not be used to fund any project costs.
"Bonding measures place upward pressure on tuition and students could be hit twice by the price of the building," Katzenback said.
ASUA President Gilbert Davidson said the amendment will force the university to think of other ways to fund the project, like fundraising efforts and larger alumni contribution.
The referendum excluded mentioning the expected cost, currently at $70 million, but required that student fees do not exceed 50 percent of total cost.
Other points in the referendum included:
Before the final vote, senators discussed the issue amongst themselves and with administrators in attendance.
Sen. Mary Peterson said she was concerned if a fee is imposed, the university would back off on efforts for other funding methods.
Dean of Students Melissa Vito replied that was a valid concern, but added the university couldn't complete the project without them.
"The referendum states that the students will be responsible for no more than one half of this," Vito said. "That means we have to find other ways to do it. We're committed to it."
Katzenback said she was concerned the fee would set a precedent for overall cost increases.
"At tuition hearings, we will have very little leverage, because we are putting a 4 percent increase on ourselves," she said of the $40 fee.
"If the regents see student leaders in favor of an increase, they will be wary of saying we can't afford a tuition increase," she added.
Davidson said some senators made constructive comments, but continued to ignore information that had already been presented.
"Some of the senators were very misinformed," he said. "They are doing students a disservice by not looking at the big picture and working from their own agenda."
Davidson, who has been working on the Student Union project since his freshman year, said he was happy that the measure passed.
"This is the first step in a really long campaign," he said. "It's a historical point for ASUA to be a part of."