In a few years, K-State’s Student Union may brandish a sleek and contemporary new face. The decision to renovate the building, though passed by SGA, is now entirely up to the student body.
“Essentially, the Union is a student facility,” said Brett Seidl, junior in journalism and mass communications and co-chair of the Your Union campaign. “It’s a business, and just like the Rec, we’re the ones who help fund it, which is why it’s urgent for students to take action.”
The Your Union campaign, which launched today, is an official push by SGA to spread awareness of the $25 million renovation and expansion plan for the Union. If the referendum passes, construction on the Union would begin as early as next fall. The plan aims to tackle the Union’s structural needs, such as outdated roofs and windows, as well as provide brand new entrances to the building. Several of these updates were decided by students.
“We’ve met with several groups on campus concerning the Union,” Seidl said. “One major complaint that students voiced in the focus groups was that the Union was confusing to get around. This new entrance has a central area where you can access everything.”
According to Seidl, the roof of the building is the main structural reason for the renovation. Seidl said the roof is out of warranty and is now too old to be insured. The roofs aren’t the only things that need touching up, either.
“Things like cooking and catering facilities are really out of date, and there aren’t funds to replace them,” Seidl said. “Furnishings are deteriorating and the majority of the windows are original, from the 1950s. You can really tell when you look up at the meeting rooms.”
Those meeting rooms are utilized by a variety of student organizations. Evan McMican, junior in marketing and recruitment president for Delta Chi fraternity, said that the current Union served them well, but a renovation could only help.
“As is, the Union has been perfect for our size, but I know of some organizations that have had an issue with space,” McMican said. “The Big 12 Room has accommodated our needs, but everyone wants new things and [the renovation] would only make our meetings more professional.”
Students will have the opportunity to vote on the renovation/expansion referendum on April 10 and 11 on the SGA elections website, www.sgaelections.ksu.edu. At least 60 percent of the votes must approve the plan for it to go into action, and up to $20 will be added to students’ privilege fees if the plan is approved. To some students, this is a more than reasonable price.
“Right now, we have a nice campus, but I think the Union is pretty ugly,” said Zach Stroth, sophomore in family studies and human services. “It’s outdated and not an accurate representation of what K-State is. We do need more meeting places, and we would gain back revenue from more space.”
Seidl said that the Your Union campaign is focused on improving current student life, but is also integral in leaving a legacy for future K-State students.
“A lot of the things on campus are there because students paid it forward. We’re using Hale Library, which students paid for without seeing it for almost 15 years,” Seidl said. “For me, it means future K-Staters will have the same, if not greater, opportunities as we did.”
Other students agree that the Union deserves some remodeling, and they have no inhibitions about paying for it.
“Making our campus nicer only adds to the value of the degree we earn here,” McMican said. “I think that $20 is a fair price. We got our Union because of past students adding to their own privilege fees.”
Since the decision to renovate the Union does come down to a student vote, Seidl said that some students, especially upperclassmen, may vote against the movement because they would be forced to pay for something that they wouldn’t be able to experience.
“If it passes, the process would start immediately, with construction starting early as next fall, so that leaves a lot of students that might not be students when all of this is taking place,” Seidl said. ” I can see that being a reason why people wouldn’t vote for it. Freshman and sophomore classes would be the only classes that would vote on it, pay for it and be here to see some of those changes happen.”
Students will have to deal with the Union’s expenses at some point, according to Seidl. He said that the Your Union campaign was the best way to deal with the situation in advance.
“A major selling point of this campaign is that students will have to pay to fix the building now or later, so the longer we wait, the more we pay for upkeep on roof and increased air and heating cost because of the windows. We might as well do it now and cut the costs before they keep growing,” Seidl said.
To increase the dialogue between SGA and the student body, the Your Union campaign is hosting two informational forums with Q&A; sessions in the Union Little Theatre that students are encouraged to attend. One will be held Thursday at 5:30 p.m., and the other will be on April 8 at 1 p.m. The campaign website, k-state.edu/yourunion, as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages, have launched today as well.
Seidl said he hopes to engage the whole university in communication about the campaign. Despite the slight rise in cost, Seidl said that the lasting effect will be what matters.
“I know that tuition is high, and we get that,” Seidl said. “Tuition does seem to rise every year, but those things are out of our control. This is a separate thing that will make a big difference. The Union is the living room of campus. It’s the least we can do to contribute to the future generations.”