By Jennifer M. Fitzenberger and Tory Hernandez
Round Two: Union funding battle not going away
UA President Peter Likins, Arizona Board of Regent members and student leaders said yesterday that although students failed to endorse a Student Union fee, the fight for a new building is far from over.
Students voted Tuesday and Wednesday to kill the Student Union referendum that would have imposed a $40 per semester fee to fund $31.5 million of the proposed $70 million project. About 72 percent of voters rejected the proposal.
"The failure of the referendum will mean a setback in our ability to move forward to the Board of Regents," Likins said in a prepared statement.
Likins said he will not bring the renovation project to the board for the second of three approvals necessary to start the architectural phase of the project.
Likins said he still is not convinced the students are fully behind the Memorial Student Union renovation project.
"It is still unclear to me whether the 'no' vote was against the Union project or the method
of funding the Union," he said.
Student leaders and some regents disagreed.
Regent Judy Gignac said she thought students still want a new Student Union
"I don't take it as a vote that they don't want another Union," she said. "I'm not going to second guess the electorate. I'll accept that they didn't want to do it in this manner."
She said a student fee would have been a good idea, but she accepted its defeat.
Student Regent John Platt said the referendum defeat was not a rejection of the Student Union renovations.
Platt said the election results will give UA more time to decide specifically how it will fund the needed Student Union renovations.
"It is definitely far from over," he said. "It is just the beginning."
Platt said the referendum was necessary, but it was premature.
"I'd suggest the UA push full steam ahead," Platt said. "This is a project that needs to happen."
Associated Students President Gilbert Davidson said it is important administrators understand what students supported with their votes.
"Hopefully, the administration is not going to scrap the project, because that is not what the students want," he said.
Regent Arthur Chapa said he will comply with Likins' recommendations.
"We have a president at the U of A that we depend on to give us options and recommendations," he said. "I don't want to try and second guess Likins."
But without the fee, a new Student Union will be more difficult to finance.
Regent Kurt Davis said he was not surprised by the referendum's defeat, but anticipated little change on the Board of Regents because of the students' vote.
"I expect it will stay at the status quo, unless students let the university leadership and the Board of Regents know that their feelings are, 'Please fix this building first,'" Davis said of the Student Union
"If students voiced that opinion, that certainly might affect some regents' view of the issue," he added.
Despite his doubts, Likins said he plans to continue the administrations fund-raising efforts.
"I am committed to an active, successful fund-raising campaign and have already initiated that process," Likins said.
Likins said the students must chip in, at some point, to fund the deteriorating Student Union, which must be renovated to comply with safety and fire codes, and UA administrators agreed.
Union officials have said it will cost $14 million in repairs to bring the Student Union up to code
"I don't think we can do this project without student support," said Saundra Taylor, vice president of student affairs. "Our assessment is that financial support from the students is necessary."
Dean of Students Melissa Vito said administrators will continue fund-raising efforts.
If there is a funding gap after other resources are exhausted, Vito said, the UA will turn to the students again.
Likins said the administration fund-raising search will include private donations, corporate sponsorships and UA property sales that could raise money for the project.
Davis said he was not optimistic about any new state dollars for the project.
"It's going to be difficult, because a majority of regents voted to use the monies that we had to begin building the IIF," he said.
"I don't see there being enough dollars available to do both projects," he added. Davidson said he will be creating a task force to examine all sides of the issue.
The IIF, or Integrated Instructional Facility, is a proposed $30 million subterranean classroom building to be constructed beneath the UA Mall.
The task force will review the referendum's outcome and discuss the Student Union's future.
Vito said several issues emerged in the weeks leading up to the election that warrant further discussion between student leaders and the administration. She said the issues included academic bonding and building designs.