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No student fee in plans for new Union

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 23, 1999
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Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

This is a model for the new Memorial Student Union, which may include an additional 100,000 square-feet of space.

The UA will not ask students to help finance the construction of a new Memorial Student Union, an Arizona Board of Regents building proposal stated yesterday.

Instead, the Regents' agenda lists a $500,000 "non-academic reallocation" from the University of Arizona Athletic Department and other sources as compensation for the student fee.

Associated Students President Tara Taylor said UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood "went to bat for the students" by giving the money that enabled students to avoid a fee.

"It was a really generous thing for them (athletic department officials) to do," she said last night. "This shows that they have more than the athletes in mind."

Livengood was unavailable for comment last night.

Regents are expected to vote Friday on the construction and financing plans for the proposed renovations, which carry an estimated $59 million price tag.

If the Regents approve the UA's payment plan, the majority of construction will be financed by a 25-year loan, with additional money coming from private donations and auxiliary revenues.

The plan not to include students in the funding equation was a hard-fought victory. The student body overwhelming defeated a referendum in November 1997 that called for students to pay a $40 fee each semester to finance the Union overhaul.

UA President Peter Likins, who was unavailable for comment last night, said in January that he supported another student referendum offering different funding options for the Union project. One of the ideas would have been to abandon the project and simply bring the old building up to code.

Taylor, who has maintained her opposition to a student fee since taking office in May, said she has been talking to Likins about her feelings on the matter "since he first stepped on campus."

In January, however, talks took on a more serious nature when Likins approached Taylor about conducting formal meetings with ASUA representatives to ascertain student opinion on the fee.

Taylor did not change her tone about opposing the fee, she said.

"I'm very pleased," Taylor said. "I think it proves that persistence pays off."

ASUA Sen. Ben Graff called the administration's decision a victory for the whole student body.

"I think this is awesome," he said. "I think this is the best example of the student body saying what they want and the administration listening."

Graff said a student referendum would have been too risky because its failure would have scrapped the project.

"If a referendum had been proposed and then failed, we would have lost everything," he said. "The project would have lost its credibility."

Graff added that he appreciated UA administrators inclusion of student opinion in their plans.

"We have to admit that the administration could run right over us and do this without our input or opinion," he said. "More than being a victory for ASUA, it's one of the strongest examples of the student body being heard in a long time."

Dan Adams, director of UA Student Unions, said he was "thrilled" that the project had gotten this far.

"Knowing that the university has actually finished...the plan is great news," Adams said, adding that the Union project is the second-biggest building venture the UA campus has seen next to University Medical Center.

The university proposes to repay interest on the loan for the first 12 years, as many UA-sponsored projects, such as the Student Recreation Center, will be paid off in fiscal year 2011.

Part of the resulting $6,697,100 that will be added to the UA's general fund will be used to pay back both the principal and interest from 2012 to 2024.

The "rededicated" $2.279 million from the general fund will provide 25.3 percent of the funding.

According to the Regents' agenda, UA officials propose that 39.3 percent of the money needed will come from entities that "will receive direct value from the project."

These entities include the Associated Students Bookstore, Residence Life, Student Publications and vendors in the Memorial Student Union.

Cash and gift annuities will provide 24.7 percent of the funding. The UA currently has $6.35 million "cash-in-hand" from gifts and an additional $600,000 is provided by its Pepsi contract.

The UA plans to raise an additional $10 million in gifts over the first six years of the loan. The gifts will be combined with the current cash stock and used to create an endowment, which will provide varying amounts of annual debt repayment for the first 12 years, assuming a seven percent average interest income.

From 2012 onward, the endowment will provide $1,521,500 annually.

The "non-academic" reallocation provided by the Athletic Department will provide for 10.7 percent of the debt.

Any shortcomings, such as failure to collect gift dollars, would be provided for by increasing the money taken from the general fund and decreasing the money to be paid from the gift endowment after 2012.

Construction of the Union, with a tentative 2002 completion date, would begin in July with the demolition of its east wing.

Taylor added that Livengood realized a new Union will help everyone on campus - including his department.

"I think it's a recruiting tool with them," she said. "If (another school) has nicer facilities, where's a good athlete going to go?"