Students approve Union renovation in landslide vote

Kate Hagans | Collegian Nathan Spriggs, K-State student body president, senior in agricultural economics, gives the results of the student body referendum on the proposed K-State Student Union renovations in the Flint Hills room on Thursday evening in the Union. Of 3,351 students who voted, 74.9 percent were in favor of renovations and a $20 increase in student privilege fees.

Members of the Student Governing Association applauded Thursday night as Study Body President Nate Spriggs announced the results of the “Your Union” referendum. Of the 3,351 students who participated in the university-wide election, 2,510, nearly 75 percent of voters, approved the $25 million renovation to the K-State Student Union.

The initiative will expand the Union with new student areas, dining facilities and a more attractive southwest entrance. Construction will begin next semester and will be financed by a $20-per-semester increase in privilege fees that will remain in effect over the next 30 years.

Spriggs, senior in agricultural engineering, praised the outcome of the election.

“This will help the Union fulfill its mission,” he said.

Spriggs said that the Union has faced challenges, and he was glad that students chose to help overcome them.

“I’m excited to see where the future will lead,” he said.

Kyle Nuss, student senator and senior in architectural engineering, agreed with Spriggs.

“It’s great it passed,” he said. “This expansion will help propel us into the future.”

Supporters of the renovations promoted the referendum with a whirlwind campaign lasting three weeks. Led by co-chairs Brett Seidl and Chelsea Gerber, both juniors in public relations and student senators, a team of 18 student ambassadors emailed every registered student group at K-State in the hopes of “getting out the vote.” Seidl and Gerber say their team spoke to between 70 and 90 organizations, including most greek chapters.

“A lot of students took an active interest,” Seidl said. “I couldn’t be more excited knowing how important this is for the future.”

Seidl said that, while he was grateful for the favorable outcome, he was even more encouraged by the number of students who voted. The number of students voting in the referendum fell short of the total voting in this year’s SGA elections but exceeded the number who voted in 2012.

Not everyone was pleased with the outcome of Thursday’s vote. Ashton Archer, senior in mechanical engineering and a former student senator, started a Facebook page urging students to reject the renovation.

“Engineers know what it’s like to have to pay more money,” Archer said. “We’re tired of it. We understand the structural arguments that they’re making, and I don’t think a lot us are really buying them.”

Archer expressed concern that prolonged construction would harm the many student organizations that depend on the Union for meeting space.

“I fear that student groups will get pushed into Waters Hall. And that’s not a building you want guests to see, especially since it has moldy water,” Archer said. “The speakers we bring in are going to be in bad facilities, and that’s the impression we’re going to leave them with.”

Archer questioned the legitimacy of the tactics used to promote the referendum.

“There was a lot of propaganda put out, including in the Collegian,” she said.

Archer specifically pointed out an email that she said was sent by the Your Union campaign to distance education students.

“Distance students got to vote even though they don’t have to pay the privilege fee increase, and that was emphasized in the email,” she said.

Gerber and Seidl said they hoped to address the concerns of students like Archer.

“The construction will be done in phases. There will hopefully be a floor for student organizations to meet at all times,” Gerber said.

Seidl said that the renovation will require some flexibility, but it will ultimately be rewarding to the K-State community.

“I would encourage students to keep providing input,” Seidl said. “You can still have a say in the final outcome.”