HECB Approved the New Union

The Higher Education Coordinating Board voted Jan. 24 to approve construction on a new union at UNT.

Key Messages:

  • The university has outgrown the current union; remodeling is not feasible.
  • Today’s students need and deserve new and more space for activities.
  • Today’s students need and deserve the latest technology.
  • A new union supports the university’s goal of attracting quality students.
  • A new union will provide faculty and staff with facilities and technology to host conferences, professional seminars and events enhancing the academic reputation of UNT.
  • A new union will be a legacy, a source of Green Pride for UNT Alumni.

Students voted April 2 – 6, 2012, to approve a student fee increase up to $115 that will go into effect Fall 2014 for the construction of a renovated and expanded University Union.

Q: The HECB said no before. What’s different now?

A: UNT collaborated with the HECB to answer questions and we are pleased at the result of the Jan. 24 vote. The new union will be good for students and the community. If you would like information on the board’s voting decisions, you will need to contact them. The HECB’s external relations office can be reached at 512-427-6111.

Q: How many students voted to approve the new union fee?

A: In total 2,253 students voted on the Union fee referendum and 54 percent (1,220) voted in favor of the fee. In total, 3,376 students – or 10 percent of the student body –participated in voting for various items on the ballot, which included Student Government Association elections.

Q: UNT raised tuition and room and board costs last year. Why doesn’t that pay for a new union?

A: Tuition at UNT covers costs for hiring and retaining top tier faculty and staff, classroom support and technology, research projects and university operations. It does not cover costs for new buildings. The fee increase students approved will cover costs related to building construction, facility maintenance, student programs, student events and UNT Union support and technology.

Q: Why does UNT need a new union?

A: The current union was built in the 1960s and is at capacity. More than 17,000 people visit the current union every day, almost a quarter of those are visitors to UNT. A quality union plays an important role in enrollment recruitment and retention, can help improve the quality of student academic careers, and the construction of a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified union will help UNT become a more sustainable campus.  A new UNT Union will also provide faculty and staff with facilities and technology to host conferences, professional seminars and events that will enhance the academic reputation of UNT, and a new UNT Union will serve as a legacy and a source of Green Pride for UNT Alumni.

Q: What is wrong with the current union?

A: The current union was built in the 1960s and was designed for a campus population of 17,000 students. UNT has about 36,000 students today, and the current union is at capacity. Over the years cosmetic changes and updates have been made to certain areas of the union, but the building has not undergone major renovations.

Other problems include:

  • The current building’s mechanical system needs replacement.
  • The current building lacks adequate space for a campus moving toward 40,000 students.
  • As construction costs and inflation continue to rise, the cost of major repairs to the current facility will exceed the cost of building a new facility.
  • The current union’s dining area is roughly 35,000 square feet short of what’s needed by national standards. The Union dining area is too small to serve the campus community, and limits the ability to better serve students.
  • Student organization space, student lounge space, and student meeting space also fail to meet national standards by thousands of square feet.

Q: Will the new UNT Union be eco-friendly?

A: Yes. The new UNT Union will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The new UNT Union facility will be built on a sustainable site, will have water efficiency measures in place, will make use of natural light and energy, and will use renewable materials and resources.

Q: When will the building be completed?

A: We expect the building to be open in 2015.

Q: Where will students, faculty and staff in the current Union, Stovall Hall and Scoular Hall go while construction is ongoing?

A: Relocation information can be found online. Faculty, staff, students and administrators have been involved in discussions about the UNT Union Master Plan, and have dedicated time to serving on the Union Master Plan Committee. The committee has worked to ensure minimal disruption to academic programs throughout construction to the UNT Union. Students needs and program advancements are a priority in the planning process for long-term relocation.

Q: How long will construction take?

A: A conservative estimate is 24 months. During this time, all programs and services that were housed in the UNT Union, including food, entertainment, student affairs offices, and retailers, will continue to operate in nearby locations convenient to students. No student jobs will be lost during this time. The current plan schedules construction to begin in June 2013 with an opening date of June 2015.

Q: How does the fee increase work?

A: Students approved a fee increase that will be up to $115 that will begin in Fall 2014. This will bring the fee total to $165 per semester. By beginning the fee in 2014, one year prior to the opening of the renovated and expanded facility, students will be saving millions of dollars in interest. The fee covers a number of items, including programming and entertainment, operations, student services, meeting spaces, and maintenance to the facility.

Q: When did students vote? Was information publicized about voting opportunities?

A: Students voted between April 2 – 6 (Monday – Friday), 2012. The Union Master Plan Committee hosted numerous events on campus to speak one-on-one with students about plans for the new UNT Union and to provide information on when voting took place. More than 9,000 students attended the events. The University provided voting information via social media channels to an audience of more than 50,000. Advertising appeared in student media with voting information and details on the Union Master Plan, and information was placed in numerous areas around the UNT Union for a year prior to the student vote.