Concept design for the new University Student Union college hopes to build. (Courtesy photo/University Communications)

Students to vote on new USU Next spring

In next year’s Associated Students, Inc. elections, students will vote on whether a new university student union (USU) should be built.

The current USU opened in 1968 and was built to support the 10,000 students enrolled at Fresno State at the time. More than 24,000 students attended Fresno State last year, and the student union no longer has enough space, said members of the student board of directors.

The directors say it’s time for a new student union. The board started the discussion in 2015 and plans to have students vote on the proposal in spring 2017.

“We are very, very limited in space, and that’s what it all comes down to,” said Angelica Reyes, chairwoman of the board. “To meet the needs of our growing population, we’re going to have to grow in structure, as well.”

Reyes said more than 300 student clubs and organizations are housed in the student involvement office, located on the USU’s top floor. “A new space will allow for bigger and better things,” Reyes said.

Juan Guzman, board vice chairman, said more space for clubs and organizations can help students develop leaderships skills.

“Everything that’s housed in the current building can do a better job with more space,” Guzman said. “We don’t have enough room for workshops that students can utilize to have big meetings and develop leadership skills.”

A new USU would likely take the place of the Keats Building, which is located in front of the current USU and houses Taco Bell and The Bucket.

Guzman said those restaurants would be temporarily lost during construction, though space for more restaurants would be available after the new student union is completed.

The current USU would continue to operate during construction. Guzman said the building will stay, but the board has yet to decide its function after the completion of the new student union. The food court will likely remain open after a opening of a new USU.

Reyes said the Keats Building was selected because it receives a high amount of traffic and is in close proximity to the library and the current student union.

“When it came to choosing the best location, we wanted to create this synergy between the different areas. Everything would be in close proximity to each other,” Reyes said.

The new USU is planned to be 90,000 square feet and three stories. The project is still in its early stages of development, and floor plans may change.

The board does not have a solid time frame of how long it will take to build the new student union.

Collin Stewart, associate dean of student involvement, said a new student union will also benefit alumni.

“It’ll increase the brand of Fresno State and will ultimately make your degree more powerful.” Stewart said.

We said the board does not yet know how much the new USU would cost. He said the cost of tuition would likely increase after the new building is completed.

“No one wants to pay more. We’re conscious of that.” Stewart said, “But for the value that you’d be getting and the new experiences that can be possible, it’s pretty remarkable.”

He added: “I hope the new USU will be the apex of the co-curricular and social experience. I hope the next generation of Fresno State students will have special experiences there. Maybe they’ll meet their best friend there or their future partner there. Maybe they’ll participate in a debate there that challenged them and helped them grow.”

Reyes said current students could leave a legacy for future generations by voting for the new USU.

“Students would be leaving a legacy for the current and future students.” Reyes said, “Think about the library, that’s something we didn’t get to vote on, but we got to benefit from it.”

Reyes said it’s important that the entire campus comes together to make this decision.

“This potential new student union is not going to happen unless the students want it to,” she said.