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A.S. Ballots Present Initiative for UCen Renevations, With a Cost

During next week’s Associated Students Elections, students will decide whether or not to implement a $20 quarterly student fee for a multi-million dollar renovation of the University Center.

The ballot initiative for the fee, called the Student Union Revitalization Fund (SURF) Initiative, will charge students a lock-in fee of $20.51 per quarter from Fall 2014 to 2018 to fund additional resources and services for the UCen. The fee will then increase to $64.41 per quarter from 2018 to 2048. To offset the financial impact of the fee, which is the largest new initiative on this year’s ballot, $1 million will be raised each year to supplement the long-range project.

The preliminary design includes 24-hour study rooms as well as expanded space for CLAS and the A.S. Food Bank, which currently already holds a space in the UCen. There will also be a Preventative Wellness Center, similar to Counseling and Psychological Services or Health & Wellness, as well as a resource center for transfer students, environmental resource center and practice spaces for performance groups.

A.S. President Jonathan Abboud picked up the project from former A.S. President Harrison Weber, and he said UCen renovations will create a true center of campus by centralizing student resources.

“I think that one big thing is that students don’t really have a place to stay on campus. That’s why they just go back to I.V. when they’re done with the day,” Abboud said. “This would help cultivate a stronger connection to the campus, and it will bring us up to speed in having a world-class facility at a world-class university.”

Third-year Black studies and sociology double major Navkiran Kaur, who is also a student assistant at the MultiCultural Center and is currently running for A.S. President in the upcoming A.S. Elections, said the fee initiative for the UCen renovation was “absurd” in light of the expenses that already burden students.

“Students are struggling to pay for textbooks, tuition and rent. Students are thousands of dollars in student loan debt,” Kaur said in an email. “When an expansion is not heavily desired by the entire campus, why should we ask our entire student body to pay such a high fee on top of the fees we already pay?”

The first lock-in fee would fund the design and architect’s plans and construction would begin in late May 2016, when the Davidson Library renovation is finished. Construction would end in Fall 2018, and the $64.41 per quarter lock-in fee would pay for construction costs, financial aid and the UCen’s budget over a period of 30 years. Abboud said the last chunk of money is going to meet the Center’s operational costs so it does not have to bring in businesses to do so.

A.S. Internal Vice President Kyley Scarlet sits on the UCen Governance Board and has been supporting Abboud by reaching out to campus groups, evaluating other university centers across California and helping to market the development. Scarlet said she is pushing for the renovation because the new UCen will provide a fresh set of services.

“I want this to be a UCen [where] you go and you see all the amazing things that are going on in this campus, and you get excited,” Scarlet said.

Contractors, hired by A.S., have surveyed students and some on-campus organizations about their desires for a new UCen. According to Abboud, many students wanted to see more nature around the UCen, so some plans include constructing an open walkway from Nicoletti’s to the MCC and placing study rooms in between, with views of the lagoon and ocean seen from across the south side of the building.

While renovation plans for the UCen took student preferences and survey responses into account, Kaur said other fee initiatives would do more to increase the retention of students and foster a “safer environment” on campus.

“We need the Queer Commission, MultiCultural Center and CAPS fees to pass — not this one,” Kaur said.

The proposed multi-million dollar changes include 24-hour study rooms, a Preventative Wellness Center, practice spaces for performance groups and more.

The proposed multi-million dollar changes include 24-hour study rooms, a Preventative Wellness Center, practice spaces for performance groups and more.

Photo by John Clow / Daily Nexus.

A version of this story appeared on page 4 of Wednesday, April 16, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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