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Vote yes for student power

(Collegian file photo)

From December 4-7, students at the University of Massachusetts will be voting on a referendum that will decide if the deteriorating Student Union building will be renovated. The Student Union is supposed to act as the hub for students to meet with their organizations, house events like the “Miss Latinos Unidos” event or the “Cheap Art Show” and be a place for students to call their own. It is not news that the Student Union is in desperate need of renovations, not only because of its incompliance with various state codes and the occasional roaches in bathroom sinks, but also because it fails to fully provide all students access and space. The Student Union was built over 60 years ago in 1956, and was meant to accommodate a much smaller campus population. Today, the Student Union’s outdated design does not provide a centralized student space. With a student population of over 20,000 and hundreds of Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), the Student Union as we know it cannot and will not be accessible for students who deserve a space of their own, unless we re-design the building.

The referendum will ask if students will accept a $100 increase added to the Student Activities Trust-Fund (SATF) that we all pay for student activities. The $100 fee, if voted yes, will be imposed for 10 years.​ ​ ​As a person who believes in free public higher education and understands the burden that any increase, whether $10 or $100 dollars, will have on students, especially those who already have great difficulty financially; it is hard for me to promote a new fee. However, I do believe that this is an investment that will only benefit our community as students. The reality of our situation today is that students do not have adequate space to meet, organize and centralize. Almost all of the cultural centers are relegated to the outskirts of campus, hidden away behind Dining Halls such as the Malcolm X Center or tucked in a corner of Residential Areas such as the LGBTQ+ Stonewall Center. In this new Student Union space, these centers may be able to hold a space in a centralized student area they deserve.

If we vote yes for this referendum, this will be a student-controlled initiative. Student input will be at the forefront of designing this building and students will be able to control the space. The Student Union will inevitably be renovated in order to bring it up to code, and if we let it come to that time where the administration takes initiative, we will not have any input in what we want to do with that space. At best, we’ll have a couple more windows, sprinklers and a few other miscellaneous fix-ups while still lacking a centralized and accessible area for students. Along with the student control of the design of the building, students also will have control over the money. That means that we will have the power to lower or remove the fee in the future when the debt of the building is paid off. We have the power to come together as students to fundraise private financial contributions to add to the SATF fund so that the fee can in the future be mitigated lower than $100. This referendum, although it will cost students money, will consequently result in more student power. We will have control of the space and we will control the money. Whether you agree or do not agree with this referendum, please do vote and let your thoughts be heard. You can contact me, any members of the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, or the Student Government Association for more information on the referendum and how this is an all-around benefit for students.

Nathalie Amazan is the education training coordinator for the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy and a student at UMass. She can be reached at namazan@umass.edu.

Comments
3 Responses to “Vote yes for student power”
  1. Celia Jailer says:

    Hi! I organized the Cheap Art Show this weekend and would appreciate if you didn’t use my show when arguing for an unjust fee increase! I am 100% against this fee, it is everything that Cheap Art Show or the Cheap Art Movement is about. Thanks!

  2. Ed Cutting, EdD says:

    The cultural centers & Stonewall are out where students live for a reason.

    Just sayin….

  3. Kalington says:

    You can literally find roaches in any building on campus. Some of the academic departments aren’t even on campus. The Student Union isn’t one of my priorities. There are plenty of other places to meet on campus, that are just as accessible as the student union.

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