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The Daily Tar Heel

Students voice opposition to fees for Union renovation

$16 required per year for changes

	UCOMMONS, a proposed rennovation project for the Student Union includes an all-night ground floor as well as several other updates. Courtesy of Ucommons.

UCOMMONS, a proposed rennovation project for the Student Union includes an all-night ground floor as well as several other updates. Courtesy of Ucommons.

Student Union officials are pushing their campaign for renovation despite unexpected student opposition to the increase in fees the project would require.

The large-scale remodeling would cost students an extra $16 of student fees every year for 30 years, starting in the 2011-12 academic year.

The proposed project, called UCommons, features a remodeled ground floor that would be open 24 hours. The proposed floor boasts a larger cabaret, rehearsal rooms, a healthy alternative to the coming Wendy’s, meeting rooms and an interactive lounge, among other amenities.

Union officials met resistance after presenting the project to the student affairs committee of Student Congress. They will need Congress to decide with a 2/3 majority for the fee to come up for a student vote.

Don Luse, director of the Student Union, said he views the proposal as a continuation of work done several years ago that left out the first floor and east wing for financial reasons.

But now, he said, construction prices are low and it is time to do something with the unused space. The bottom floor currently houses the cabaret, a lounge and an unused bowling alley.

“We’re trying to provide a flexible 24/7 space that students can be in to study, get leadership training and be engaged with innovative projects,” he said.

Tony Patterson, senior associated director of the Student Union, said he thinks the space is grossly under-utilized as is.

“There isn’t a good space for students to be active 24/7,” Patterson said. “We’re going for an energetic environment.”

Graduate student and president pro tempore Alex Mills led the opposition.

“Many graduate students I speak to don’t even know where the union is, but they know how much they pay in fees,” Mills said.

Other members were also hesitant to support the fee increase because the majority of current students will not benefit from the renovation, at least not as undergraduates. The renovation is to be completed by fall 2013.

The committee recommended unfavorably the bill to put the renovation up for a vote in the spring elections. Student Congress will likely vote on the bill Jan. 18.

Though members of the committee were generally against a referendum for the project, Student Union officials said they were confident it was due to limited time.

Megan Johnson, who has overseen about $1,300 dollars in marketing for the project, said that throughout the campaign there has been one consistent trend. Initially, students are wary, she said, but grow more supportive with more information.

“The more information we’ve gotten out, the more support we’ve gotten,” she said.

Luse said he thinks it’s worth the $16.

“What it comes down to is that students deserve the right to say yes or no,” he added.In addition to the study and entertainment features, UCommons will offer space for training programs.

This space can be used for leadership workshops, alumni advice offices or other programs at the request of student organizations.

The Student Union is the only completely student-funded building on campus, Luse said.

“We feel strongly that students who get involved learn a lot,” he said. “We want to support that.”

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Staff Writer Caitlin McCabe contributed reporting.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.