Senate recommends $15 student fee increase for Memorial Union maintenance

Alex Connor

Student Government passed a resolution Wednesday expressing support of a possible $15 student fee increase to go toward deferred maintenance on the Memorial Union.

The resolution – which is separate from the multi-phase $72 student fee increase proposed last year to improve the Memorial Union – strictly addresses facility improvements rather than an overhaul of the space.

The debate on the resolution – lasting more than an hour – focused on amendments to the legislation, such as adding a timeline or making the fee a “progressive increase” based on classification compared to a flat $15 for all students.

The Special Student Fee and Tuition Committee has already expressed support of the $15 fee, which if approved by President Ben Allen and the Board of Regents will result in the renovation of the fourth through sixth floors and address capital renewal needs within the Memorial Union.

The student fee increase, if approved by the Board of Regents, would be enacted in the fall of 2018. The $15 fee would be on top of the $27.50 in fees already paid for by students for Memorial Union upkeep. 

During the debate, Sen. Kathryn Neilson questioned what might happen should the fee increase be voted against, in which Associate Dean of Students Keith Robinder said, “If you don’t fund it, money has to come from somewhere.”

“You can fund this now, or you can fund this later,” Robinder said. “It could come out of programs later that are important to you.”

Another concern by the senators included college affordability, with Sen. Dozmen Lee expressing that his constituents are already upset with the 7 percent proposed tuition increase and changes in meal plans. 

“I understand that we need this, but that does not mean we have to co-sign it after our constituents are telling us they don’t want this,” Lee said. 

Vice speaker Cody Woodruff later countered this concern, addressing that the need of the Memorial Union outweighs what the students may want. 

“Leaders must make unpopular decisions sometimes,” Woodruff said. “You had time to talk to your constituents and even if they say no, you may desire to say yes, but that’s your right.”

“This is one of those unpopular choices we have to make.”

The resolution ultimately passed 22-1-2. 

In regard to the debate by the senate, one amendment requested a timeline for the fee, but was ultimately voted against 3-22-0 as some senators felt it could be deemed irresponsible of the Student Government to set an end date of the fee without knowing what the future may hold.

“If there is not an identifiable sunset date, or if we can’t predict some point in time where the need for this fee expires,” said Sen. Isaiah Baker, “I don’t see need for end date.”

The amendment was originally proposed by Sen. Bibiloni, who felt that a “timeline is key for students to understand what we’re actually doing here.”

Sen. Samuel Rankin also proposed an amendment requesting the senate propose a “progressive student fee increase” of $5 for seniors, $10 for juniors, $15 for sophomores and $20 for freshman.

Clerk Jacob Zirkelbach, Sen. Baker and other senate members opposed this amendment.

“Anyone that has been here for any amount of time has been using this facility without this $15 fee that honestly I think should have been here years ago,” Zirkelbach said.

Sen. Baker argued that it moved away from the unified message Student Government hoped to send to Sen. Allen by passing this resolution as is.

The amendment was voted against by the senate.