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January 19, 2018

Referendum to come to student body for Student Union renovations

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

Editor’s Note: Since the article’s original publishing, it has been corrected to attribute SGA Director Sarah Nordberg, instead of Associate Speaker Clare McGladrigan, for her quotations. Additionally, Speaker of the Senate Ryan Mahan’s quotation was added to to give greater context to the situation he addressed.

On Monday, Nov. 13, the Student Government Association held a vote to pass a Student Union renovation referendum question, which will be sent to the University of Massachusetts student body. The referendum concerned the increase of the Student Activity Trust Fund (SATF) fee for the potential renovations of the Student Union.

After all the concerns were addressed, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the referendum of increasing the SATF onto the student body.

Due to questions regarding “the lack of space for the ever-growing number of Registered Student Organizations at UMass,” a $50 million renovation project was proposed which included designs for a more sustainable and handicap-accessible building.

This was not a vote to approve the renovations, but to approve students’ ability to vote on this referendum. In order for the referenda to be initiated, there was a majority vote by the SGA Senate, approving the creation of a referendum to be brought to the student body. The voting for the general student body will occur on Campus Pulse from Dec. 4 to 7 as an advisory referendum. For the referendum to go into effect, five percent of the UMass student body must vote “yes.”

If the project is approved by the student body, Chancellor Subbaswammy has committed to paying for half of the project, affirming to provide roughly $25 million toward the project. The other $25 million will come from an undergraduate student fee increase of the SATF from the current $131 rate to $181 by the fiscal year of 2019. By the fiscal year of 2020, the fee will increase again to $231.

“A ‘no’ vote will reject the fee increase and table the project,” stated Ryan Mahan, Speaker of the Senate, in reference to how a “no” vote from the Senate would not initiate the referendum.

Senator Alex Domanico, a sophomore public relations major, was concerned about the language of the referendum, specifically regarding the date in which the fee will be enacted.

“It’s not biased in any shape or form by including that it’s going to start after some people graduate?” Domanico asked to clarify.

Director Sarah Nordberg, a junior political science major, said that the ballot is fully transparent about when the fee will be implemented. Additionally, she said that information about the fee is information that students should have and be able to base their decisions on. But Nordberg also hopes that students don’t make their decision solely on their graduation date.

When asked about the time frame of the project if it is approved, Nordberg answered that “it’s timeline is about a year to a year and a half.”

“Ideally this year’s freshmen would be able to see the renovated Student Union,” Nordberg continued.

The goal of the Senate is to educate the student body on the project as much as possible before the election. Outreach tactics include approaching RSOs about the topic as well as discussing the proposal with professors and lecture halls prior to class time.

Gretchen Keller can be reached at gkeller@umass.edu. Bonnie Chen can be reached at bonniechen@umass.edu.

Comments
5 Responses to “Referendum to come to student body for Student Union renovations”
  1. Breannarose Lamb says:

    How is 5% of the population of UMass a fair assessment of needs in the community? Surely this must be a typo. The SGA might as well say, “as long as the rich students vote for this, we can add a few more hundred dollars to our most disadvantaged students tuition.” Every dollar counts when we fear that we might not be able to come back next semester due to costs. I would need to see a LOT of support from those who regularly use the SU to say that is needs the renovation. So far, we’ve only been give what-ifs and what could be’s.

  2. Tasty Tomato says:

    If people are concerned with only needing 5%, how about you vote and raise that number. How about sharing the voting link when it comes out. Just saying

  3. Ed Cutting, Ed.D. says:

    The building is not going to be any bigger, and the Campus Center still run as a separate building — students don’t gain. If you lose the ballroom, that’s the end of a lot of large events that students not in RSOs like, including the increasingly popular graduation balls/dinners. And the ski sale, etc.

    Vote no — UMass is in transition, RSOs are increasingly becoming virtual groups linked by smartphones — the need for a physical meeting is a circa-1970’s mentality.

  4. Mahin says:

    I have never heard of a referendum requiring so few votes (5% – really?). Will the SGA aggressively promote voter turnout as they do during general elections? or are they hoping that the student body won’t turn out to vote against this poorly thought out proposal?

  5. Waste says:

    SGA alone will make a large chunk of that 5%. They want everyone to pay for a shiny building that serves the same purpose as the existing one. I was a leader of an RSO and a ex member of the SGA; In my opinion, there is no shortage of meeting space. The need for “more space” is exaggerated. The $50m could be used for better things like professional workshops and class licenses for e-textbooks, rather than having students buy textbooks individually. These things could go a long way to improving students’ grades and job prospects, which is what we need to prioritize.

    If the building is such a hazard to health as claimed, then necessary repairs should be made so that it meets building code requirements. We shouldn’t be spending $50m for cosmetic reasons.

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