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The Daily Tar Heel

Union renovation needs 1,000 signatures

UCommons petition due at 5 p.m.

With just six days left before student elections, volunteers are rushing to collect signatures to breathe life into a Student Union renovation, requiring a student fee increase.

Because Student Congress rejected the referendum on Jan. 18, Union officials must collect a minimum of 2,939 signatures from the student body before 5 p.m. Feb. 2 for UCommons to appear on the Feb. 8 ballot. The project is intended to transform the bottom floor into a more appealing space for students, featuring more meeting rooms and rehearsal space.

Tyler Mills, president of the Carolina Union Activities Board, said the petition had about 2,000 signatures Tuesday. Though there are nearly 1,000 signatures left to collect, Mills said he is confident the referendum will make the ballot.

“Yesterday I think we ended up collecting about 800 signatures; so, I think it’s going very well,” he said.

If officials fail to collect the signatures by 5 p.m. today, the referendum could still appear on a later ballot as long as the 2,939 signatures are presented to the student body president, said Andrew Phillips, chairman of the Board of Elections.

Mills said he is confident the bill will get the 800 votes it needs to pass even if it appears on a ballot outside the regular election.

Mills said one of the biggest obstacles for the initiative is confusion on the part of students. He said some students are confusing UCommons, which applies only to Phase 2 of the renovations, with Phase 1.

“This isn’t about Wendy’s. This is about more than that,” he said. “The Wendy’s is already happening.”

Union officials have spent at least $1,300 marketing UCommons, said Megan Johnson, assistant director of Union marketing and design.

The $11 million initiative would cost students an additional $16 per year for the next 30 years. Students have voiced opposition because of the University’s impending budget cuts, but Union officials said now is the time to begin construction.

“The flip side to this economy is that construction costs are cheaper,” said Tony Patterson, senior associate director of student life and activities.

Waiting even one year to begin construction could raise costs by as much as 30 percent, Mills said.

But graduate students have posed concerns, Mills and Patterson said, about paying extra fees for a Union they rarely use.

“There’s a lot of graduate students who have no idea where the Union is,” said Laura Blue, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation.

Union officials have been trying to reach out to graduate students, said Union director Don Luse.

But Blue said she does not feel they have been doing their best.

“There has been no follow-up,” she said. “The perspective is this is what they want, and it doesn’t matter what we think.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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