Future of campus planning left to student vote
After warring over the establishment of a campus recreational center subsided in spring 2009, people thought the controversy was over. Except one piece of the puzzle is still missing.
Associated Students Inc., is now looking to solicit student input over what should be put into the recreational center.
“It’s going to be one of our goals next semester,” said Franko Ali, incoming vice president of university affairs. “We started a survey about this a while ago and got 6,000 responses, now we want to start a supplemental survey to that. We really want to get more student input.”
The Recreation and Wellness Design and Planning Committee, which consists of three ASI appointees, three appointees from the student center and three campus recreation appointees, will preside over the plans for the center. The committee is due to meet by June and into the summer.
After polling students in 2008, a floor plan was constructed to fit the most popular student ideas. With additional input, however, the center could get an entirely new look.
“What we found is a good basis to go by, but student opinions change,” said Travis Northup, chairman of the student center.
The center will cost approximately $93 million by the time it opens in 2014. Student fees have increased $35 since 2009 and will increase by up to $160 by 2014. In addition, fees will go up $3 every semester after 2015 in order to maintain the center, according to the recreation and wellness center website.
“I think it’s a shame that so much money is being put toward something most of us are never going to use,” said Kimberly Premo, a business major. “The only opinions that really matter are those of the people coming in. I’d rather see the University putting more interest in things that we can use now.”
ASI board members believed that while students had little input in the actual decision to build a recreational center, the resources it provides should better the student experience.
“What ASI is really pushing for is that we don’t want it to be a campus 24-Hour Fitness,” Ali said. “We want something that fits well and serves the student community.”
According the Northup, the planning committee’s ability to reach out is being hindered by its slow start, leaving members unsure about the next steps in the planning process.
“So little has been done so far, so it’s hard to really say anything,” he said. “We still have the framework to get down to figure out how it will work.”
By the beginning of next semester, the planning committee is expected to have prepared a survey or other means of student outreach to begin looking for student opinion.
“For one, the students are paying for it, so they should care,” Ali said. “Nothing is final yet, so if there’s a strong enough movement for something like a bowling alley or laser tag, it will seriously be considered. This will be a super rare opportunity for students to be involved in something that directly affects them.”
Although the committee will be making the majority of the decisions, its input may not necessarily be accounted for when the recreational center is built.
“We’d like to hear student input, but ultimately it is the University’s decision,” Northup said. “They could very well say it’s their land and that they can do what they want with it.”
Some students, though the center is expected to be costly, hope to be allowed to have their voices heard.
“Why should we spend money that we need on a rec center as opposed to more classes?” said BECA major Jeff Birnbaum. “I feel we don’t need the rec center, but if there was more student input it wouldn’t be as bad.”