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CSU Stanislaus students to vote on funding union expansion

POSTED March 12, 2010 10:56 p.m.
On March 29 and 30, California State University, Stanislaus students will be asked to vote on a $27 million expansion of the University Student Union that would eventually increase student fees by $150 per semester if approved.
The project would nearly double the size of the University Union, renovating the existing 30,310 square feet while adding 22,235 square feet of new space for campus life, events and commuters. The eventual $440 annual fee for the expansion, including $140 in existing University Union fees, has drawn the ire of some project opponents, however, who feel the cost is excessive on top of this year’s 27 percent increase in state tuition.
“When is it going to be the right time?” said Byron Kamp, executive director of the University Student Union. “If you could pinpoint that for us, let us know.”
The prospect of convincing the State of California to fund anything not directly related to academics is slim, according to Kamp. He, along with other proponents, views the expansion vote as an opportunity for existing students to help build a legacy and to “pay it forward” by helping to fund a building they may never use.
“The building we have here today is here because students who were here 30 years ago decided having a student union was an important thing today, so they voted to tax themselves,” Kamp said. “And many of those students were probably not here when the building opened.”
The preliminary building schedule calls for 12 to 18 months of design and approval time, followed by an 18-month build. Including contingencies for delays, the building is expected to open no later than 2014.
During construction, the existing union would be closed. The event center, near the current union, would be repurposed as a temporary office space for university union functions during construction. Student event programming would continue in other buildings on campus.
The decision to bring the project to a vote came about after more than two years of discussion on the University Student Union Board of Directors, the nine student, six faculty and staff member group that oversees the union’s operation.
“The board, we students, have agreed we want to go forward with this, and we have fought to keep the fee down and focus on all the positive results of moving forward with this project,” said Bryce Dias, chairman of the board of directors of the University Student Union.
Beginning in fall 2010, students would pay an extra $25 in fees per semester. The per semester fee would increase in the following years to $50, $75, $100, and finally $150 in the 2014-2015 school year and each year thereafter, so most of the cost would be shouldered by students who would use the new building.
The centerpiece of the expansion would be a large multipurpose room, able to hold nearly 600 people for a banquet or 1,200 for a standing room special event such as a concert or speech.
The room would also be large enough for on-campus organizations like fraternities and sororities to hold meetings, an impossibility in the current student union, according to Dias, who is also a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Greek organizations are currently relegated to meeting in classrooms or lecture halls, Dias said, which don’t offer a “meeting ambiance” where participants can all see one another face to face.
The expansion will offer additional space for student leadership and development staff to provide more workshops than they currently do, such as skills training for club leaders. A new area for campus life would also offer office space — and a home base — to the approximately 65 student clubs and organizations on campus.
“Unlike many other campuses, these groups do not have a space on campus to be their base and work from,” Kemp said. “That’s a major plus that we see that would be beneficial to a large number of students.”
A new commuter lounge would provide CSU Stanislaus’ largely commuter student population a space to do homework, relax between classes, or prepare small meals in a kitchenette — a good alternative to the current practice of sitting in one’s car, Kamp said. Also, an expanded computer lounge would be available for students.
A new dining opportunity features in the plans, offering a sports grill ambiance with large screen TVs, pool tables and food service. Kamp says the venue could be available into the evenings with open mic comedy nights and artists playing acoustic guitar.
“We don’t have that kind of an opportunity on campus at this point,” Kamp said. “Students say there’s a need.”
While the project has been a hard sell to some students, opposed to yet more fees, the Union leadership has held open forums to attempt to educate the student body about the many potential benefits of the expansion.
First-year kinesiology student Jack Quock wasn’t aware of the referendum as of Friday afternoon, but upon hearing of the plan he was supportive of the idea. He said he didn’t mind paying a little extra each semester, “If it’s for the students.”
Rachel Veley, a freshman history and communications student, was already a well-versed supporter of the project when approached by the Journal on Friday. As a member of the University Student Union Program Board, she lauded the boost the expanded union would bring to the number and quality of events the college could host, which would in turn attract more students and perhaps eventually reduce fees.
“I’m all for it,” Veley said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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