With a vote on the Union Master Plan less than two weeks away, it is important to have factual and accurate information about the proposed increased in the Union Fee. Currently, we are at the very beginning of this process, which means that we have only began to solicit information from students as to what the facility will have in it. If the referendum is passed, students will continue to be very involved in all design aspects of the facility with everything from furniture selection to technology desires to various finishes. Student input is the most important aspect of this process and will always be at the forefront of the discussion.
Currently, the students of the University of North Texas have implemented a fee of $50 per semester. This fee is used to fund salaries, programs, services, and the maintenance/operations of the current University Union. The 193,000 square foot facility was built in 1964 and renovated for a campus population of 17,000 students in 1976. The facility is aging at a rapid pace. According to a structural audit of the facility in 2009, it would cost nearly $34 million to replace the aging mechanical, engineering, and plumbing and bring it up to code for life safety measures. While it is impossible to gauge the dependency of HVAC units, boilers, and the like, the report does state that most of them have reached the maximum point of their useful life. Additionally, the current facility is overdue for a new roof, the various wood floors in the Silver Eagle and Golden Eagles Suites needs to be replaced completely, and asbestos is prevalent in much of the walls and flooring. With a facility that is nearly 50 years old, maintenance is bound to happen…and it will be costly.
The election in April is allowing students to vote on whether or not they choose to raise the current Union fee by $115, starting in the fall of 2014. By doing this, the university would be able to renovate the current 193,000 square feet and add an additional 105,000 square feet of programs and services to meet the needs of a campus population that is double what it was nearly 40 years ago. Additionally, by delaying the start of the fee to the fall of 2014, this would ensure that most of the individuals paying it would actually get to use the facility. Representatives from the Student Government Association (SGA) thought this was the best timing because it allowed for any fluctuations in enrollment, construction costs, interest rates, or inflation that might otherwise affect the project in a negative way. Money from the Union Fee cannot be used to pay for any other projects or programs on campus. According to the State of Texas, it must be used to fund programs and services within the University Union. Students, through the Union Board of Directors, ultimately decide how money is spent that is allocated from the Union Fee.
There are lots of questions regarding the plans for Scoular and Stovall Halls. The most recent University Master Plan from 2005 called for their demolition. This was before any planning of the Union began in 2009. The deans of these colleges and the department heads have met, and will continue to meet, with University administrators to meet the needs of these important programs. In addition, a student forum and information session will be planned to communicate with students.
A University System project manager has reviewed the spaces list & white papers provided by each department. She has also toured Stovall & Scoular (including the fashion collection) to confirm the special space/equipment needs. This includes the needs for specialized flooring, vent hoods, technology, special plumbing and electric, HVAC requirements, and custom built-in storage. The fashion collection will also remain accessible to students with specialized environmental controls, insured, and delicately transported to the new location in a seamless fashion. There will be further discussions regarding the Texas Revenue Bond (TRB) application for the CVAD building in the near future. The Provost and dean of your college can provide you with an update on its progress.
Finally, the current program for the University Union Master Plan calls for significant increases to areas that have been reduced or eliminated. First off, student organizations will be getting significant increases in space, more meeting rooms, lockable storage space, a workroom, and access to this area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, students will also have 24/7 area where they can check their mailboxes, use ATM’s, print documents wireless, plug into televisions (gaming systems/laptops), and eat. The current facility has three (3) passenger elevators (one at each entrance) and two (2) service elevators, which means easier access to the facility, less waiting, and no more riding up to a different floor with trash. The current program calls for more meeting rooms that meet the various functions of student organizations. For example, the current plan calls for a senate room that will have voting buttons and microphones, two dance rehearsal rooms with mirrors, a meditation room, a larger multifunction event room for lager events, and flexible meeting rooms that can be adapted to the space desired by students. The University Union Master Plan also calls for more lounge space and Dining Services options, which ultimately means two to three more concepts and a healthier option. Students will have a lot of input into those options, if the fee increase is approved in April. Technology will be significantly improved for students (i.e. cell phone service and wi-fi technology) as the University Union moves to a paperless environment. Finally, the programs calls for a lot more natural light into the facility, a sustainable design, and the appearance of a lot more Mean Green tradition (i.e. notable alumni, more presence of green, and historical symbols). The Syndicate would become a two-story venue with garage door access to the outside dining area, the One O’Clock Lounge would receive significant upgrades to make it more ADA accessible and prevalent for students to enjoy, and the Lyceum would be relocated to give it better access to the academic side of campus and improved technology for better learning and entertainment. There are a lot more changes proposed, but these are a few highlights that might be of interest to students.
Overall, we want students to vote, whether it is yes or no, and we want them to be educated voters. In order to be an educated voter, we ask that you visit the official University Union Master Plan at http://union.unt.edu/masterplan. The official vote will happen on April 2-6, 2012 and students can go to http://sga.unt.edu to vote. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask various student representatives on the University Union Master Plan Committee.
Your Union. Your Voice.
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