Students to decide fate of UCC in February referendum vote

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western students will vote on a referendum this February which will either make or break the University Students’ Council’s plan to renovate the University Community Centre.

The USC plans to make aesthetic renovations to the main atrium, underground shops and The Spoke Lounge, as well as constructing a second atrium in the gymnasium that was inherited from Campus Recreation when they moved to their new multi-million dollar facility at the south end of campus.

“I think that this is an important step for the university and for student life on campus,” said Matt Kington, VP-finance for the USC. “This is really a decision that is going to have a huge beneficial effect on students for decades to come.”

If the referendum passes students will pick up the $30 million bill for the renovations " paying a $110 student fee for the next 20 years and a $10 fee every year after for maintenance.

“This is a very valuable project,” Kington said. “Everything that happens in this building is going to be made better, more efficient and more accessible to students.”

Dan Moulton, president of the Huron University College Students’ Council, opposed the referendum question when it was tabled at a council meeting in early December, saying the USC needed to consider more options.

“I think that we were brought to a point where either we [renovate] now or we never do it and that brought a lot of pressure to council,” Moulton said.

“I don’t feel as though sufficient options are being presented to students in terms of both financial figures and the level of renovations.”

Moulton also feels the USC should be seeking alternate funding instead of sticking students with another hefty fee.

“We should be looking to the university to support part of this renovation because this is a building on campus that is an integral part of the student experience at Western. The university needs to become a key player in this.”

According to Kington, however, the university has not offered any funding and is already spending millions of dollars to renovate other parts of the UCC that will be turned into classrooms.

An alternate option for funding is sponsorships. However, in the current tumultuous economic climate, corporate donations are few and far between.

“I think that it’s okay to bring in naming options as long as we’re able to find companies that fit with the students and the campus atmosphere,” Kington said. “Obviously we aren’t going to bring in ‘Doritos Hall.’”

Whether students will be receptive to another hike in student fees remains to be seen.

Fourth-year political science student Cory Young, who voted in favour of the recreation centre referendum three years ago, said he would not be voting ‘yes’ this time around.

“I think that the expense is too large for students to take on considering we’re already paying for the [new] recreation centre,” Young said. “If it were an extra $20 or $30 I would vote for it, but $100 for 20 years is too much.”

Despite the high student fee, both Kington and Moulton are hopeful the referendum will pass. However, the USC will not abandon the space if the referendum is rejected.

“If the referendum fails we will do what we can with the funds that we currently collect to make that space as beneficial to students as possible,” Kington said. “We recognize that it’s already our space " we have to do something with it.”

The referendum will coincide with USC elections on Feb. 11 and 12, and if approved, construction could start in February, with a target completion date of July 2011.

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