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By Tory Hernandez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 13, 1997

Students to vote without specifics on what fee buys

When students go to the polls next week to vote on the proposed $40 Memorial Student Union renovation fee, they will be voting without any concrete knowledge of what their money will purchase.

No official architectural plans have been drawn up for the new Student Union because the project has not received conceptual approval from the Arizona Board of Regents.

Blueprints could be drawn up in six to 10 months if the fee is approved, but the actual construction will take longer, said Dan Adams, director of Student Unions.

"It will take several years to construct because we simply cannot close the doors," Adams said. "We still have to maintain services and phase it so it's least disruptive to students."

Students will vote Nov. 18-19 whether to pitch in $40 a semester to finance $31.5 million of the $70 million building renovation. The fee, which is contingent on successful administrative fund-raising efforts, would start in January of 1999 and last for 25 years.

The referendum also lacks specific information, though supporters have said it's impossible to include all the details.

Though administrators involved in the Memorial Student Union planning do not have any specifics, they do have a general idea of what the new building will include.

Jonathan Harvey, principal management analyst for campus and facilities planning, said the new structure will have the same square footage as the existing Student Union, plus or minus 10 percent.

"What it does create is new space, more efficient space and space designated for a specific purpose," Harvey said.

Final figures on square footage will be available by the end of the month, he said.

Though estimates for the project have reached $70 million according to some UA administrators, Harvey said he was still planning for $60 million worth of space.

The project description which was presented to the board of regents in August included four main components:

  • an underground service dock and loading/unloading facility
  • capabilities for additional future expansion north of the existing UA Associated Students Bookstore
  • replacing the area of Gallagher Theatre and construction of a new wing major renovation of remaining facility

According to figures given to the board of regents when the UA received project initiation approval last August, areas such as the bookstore, areas for student programming and meeting rooms and lounges stand to get an increase in overall square footage.

Other areas such as Student Union offices, food service and entertainment and retail areas may see a reduction in space.

"All spaces in the building will be improved and enhanced wherever possible," Harvey said.

Moving the service loading dock underground will give the building two front doors, Harvey said.

"You'll also be able to walk from one side of the building through to the other because the layout will be better."

There are eight retail spaces available, which may include businesses such as Fast Copy and the United States Post Office.

The wording of the referendum has been changed to include a clause, proposed by Associated Students President Gilbert Davidson, which allows a student committee to review administrative efforts to raise funds for the building within one year. If the committee feels the administration hasn't lived up to its promises, it may withdraw or reduce the fee.

"The students who have sat down and worked on this have done extremely well in protecting students," Adams said about the clause.

In addition to the withdrawal clause, the ASUA Senate, who approved the referendum for the entire student body, also approved an amendment which prohibited the use of tuition based bonds to fund the University's portion of the cost. Tuition based bonds typically drive up the cost of tuition.

Along with the new building, students could see a portion of the fee reserved for campus programming, which would be controlled by a student committee. A specific percentage has not been set, but supporters of the fee say it could be put toward increased concerts and special events on campus, as well as increasing the budgets of programs.

"Some people on campus think our current programs are fine," said Caitlein Ryan, president of the University Activities Board, "but they don't understand what's possible."

The Referendum

The proposed Union/Bookstore renovation and expansion will:

  • be partially funded by a mandatory fee, not to exceed $40 per semester assessed to all University of Arizona students. The fee shall commence in the Spring semester 1999;
  • the student fee shall not exceed 50% of total project costs;
  • this fee shall end at the completion of bond payments, not to exceed 25 years; expenditure of fee shall be monitored by a student advisory group;
  • no academic bonds shall be used in this project as to increase tuition;
  • the student fee board and the UA Administration shall review within one year from the passage of this referendum all fundraising efforts. If sufficient effort in fundraising exists, the student fee will begin. If however, the student fee board feels less than sufficient effort has been made in fundraising; the fee will be reduced by an amount agreed upon by the student fee board.


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