Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students vote ‘yes’ for Student Union renovations

(Collegian File Photo)

The University of Massachusetts student body has voted in favor of a Student Union referendum that will increase the student activities fee in exchange for a $50 million Student Union renovation, according to the referendum results that came in at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Friday.

“Officially the results are in, and yes, the referendum was approved,” Anthony Vitale, president of the Student Government Association, said. “There were about 1,000 votes for ‘no’ to the referendum question and about 1,200 votes for ‘yes.’”

The Student Union Referendum was put up by the Student Government Association on the Campus Pulse website from Dec. 4 to Dec. 7. In order for the referendum to pass, a minimum of 5 percent of undergraduate students needed to participate with a simple majority vote to pass or deny the referendum. Almost 10 percent of the student population voted, with 55.16 percent of participants voting ‘yes’ in favor of the referendum.

Vitale said that the Student Union renovation project has been an ongoing discussion within the SGA since 1966, and he’s happy to see that a lot of work played out in guaranteeing the student body a new building.

According to the SGA Secretary of Public Relations Cobi Frongillo, the student activities fee will begin at a $50 increase in the 2018-2019 academic year, followed by another $50 increase that will be maintained until the project is paid off. Half of the $50 million renovation project will be funded by a contribution from the University, and revenue generated from the increased activity fee will make up for the other $25 million.

“The Student Union was built for a campus of 4,800 students and has not seen any major renovations since. It has been ignored by administration for too long and is not meeting the needs of our students,” Frongillo said. “This referendum gives students the opportunity to have a say over the funding and timeline of this project. We at SGA think it is imperative that this project is student driven.”

According to Frongillo, construction is expected to take 1.5 years, “strategically scheduled to minimize the impact on student life.”

According to the Student Union website, the space has not been renovated since its opening in 1957. In association with the student experience master plan and the reopening of the Hatch, Cannon Design developed a “conceptual design and ‘test fit’ to address priority program and activity space needs for students. A test fit uses a floor plan to confirm that the needs and requirements can fit within a space.”

The renovation is split up into the Student Union’s three levels: lower, ground and top. Each level’s plans have space for student businesses and registered students organizations, including a new black box theatre for on-campus performances, a Student Organization Resource Center, a new “Media Center” and more office space.

“These are in no way set in stone. We look forward to continued discussion with RSOs, student businesses and student agencies to ensure that the building best meets the needs of its students,” Frongillo said.

According to Frongillo, the next step for the project is for working groups, comprised of students and representatives of student groups, to meet with the project architect to help plan and design the student spaces. He said that the UMass Board of Trustees technically has the final approval of the project, but in the past, have always enacted campus referendums.

Vitale said that he and other members of the SGA are excited to work with the architecture firm, student groups and stakeholders as they begin the planning and design process.

Over the past week, the Student Government Association has campaigned for the student body to vote ‘yes,’ on the referendum, telling stories about what reconstruction would mean to them under the hashtags #SaveTheStuU, #VoteYES and #HumansoftheStuU.

Secretary of Diversity for the SGA Talya Sogoba spoke on her experience as a low-income student paying her way through college. She said she well knows the impact of $100.

“But I also know the impact that it would have on my friends and the people I care about down the line when they’re able to walk on campus and into a space that actually took the time to accommodate their needs,” Sogoba wrote.

According to the Facebook page created for the referendum, it received support from members of several student organizations such as College Republicans, University Democrats, UMass Ski and Board Club, Latinos Unidos, the Center for Education and Policy, UVC-TV and the Student Union Craft Center.

According to UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski, the need to modernize the Student Union building has been recognized for some time and is on the University’s capital improvement projects.

“Given the limited funding available and the many pressing building needs on campus, we have not addressed it to date. However, should students decide to allocate substantial funding for the project, as proposed in this week’s online vote, that provides the opportunity to move ahead with improvements sooner,” he said.

Caeli Chesin can be reached at [email protected] or reached on Twitter at @caeli_chesin.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • E

    Ed Cutting, Ed.DDec 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    The Student Union has FOUR floors (note the room numbers), the first floor is being used as part of the parking garage. However, the Campus Center was intended to be the addition to the Union, and I don’t see any mention of the CC in this. THAT’S where the available space is, the roof’s been leaking since the 1970’s and that should be the priority.
    But the larger issue is that the students have lost the ability to object to the coming tuition fee increases…