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Bigger and ‘Bold’-er, but at what cost?

These days, students cannot navigate campus or even campus-run social media outlets without running into three words – Bold New U.

It’s also completely possible to have seen students or administrators touting #BoldNewU gear including tote bags, wristbands and sunglasses at the many informational meetings and forums held in favor of the expensive and controversial proposed construction project.

It’s true – our student population is growing, and with that has earned the need for a larger place for students to study, socialize or participate in on-campus clubs and organizations.

However, what makes students so wary of the project that sounds almost perfect in theory are the contingencies. Students voting on the Bold New Union referendum are voting for increased student fees for middle and high school students who haven’t yet decided to attend Fresno State.

A yes vote on the referendum seals the fate of future students.

They will receive a shiny and new USU with all the fixings, but at the cost of a $400 annual increase to student tuition fees.

This proposed fee increase follows this week’s news of a CSU tuition increase.

While student population and need for updated facilities have outgrown that of our current USU and Satellite Student Union, there are shortcomings laced within the Bold New U referendum, on which students will be voting on this Tuesday.

While, in theory, the proposed Bold New U, initiated by Student Involvement and various members of the administration seems as though it is something blossoming with growth and possibility. However, tensions between the upcoming student referendum vote, the proposed construction and subsequent repayment plan from students don’t seem to coexist as well as the administration would lead students to believe.

The first unsettling thing about the nature of the referendum vote is how heavily it has been advertised by university-affiliated parties.

It’s completely fair to publicize the opinion of on-campus organizations in favor of the new USU. However, there is no reason why tote bags and sunglasses screaming the hashtag #BoldNewU need to be handed out by the hundreds on the campus mall. Student Involvement, ASI and campus administrators are well-respected, so why do they feel like they need to buy the approval of students with swag?

The heavy publicity tactics of campus organizations leaves an air of skepticism amongst student voters. Why front the money for swag bags and pizza for endless on-campus informational meetings if there’s a possibility the collective answer could be a “no” from students?

It could be thought that the vote is a mere formality for what could eventually be in the concrete future of Fresno State – regardless of how the Bold New U referendum fares after the election.

So if that’s actually the case, why prolong the inevitable? Why invest so much in a 100,000 square foot ‘what if’?

Though the act of voting and democracy reflects diplomacy, how fair is it for current students to predict and decide the financial futures of would-be students.

How can students – some of whom are graduating less than two months after the vote is held – decide how students entering the university in six years are going to spend their money?

While our student population is largely helped by financial aid, not all of that aid comes purely from grants. Students are taking out loans with astronomical interest rates just to attend school, so advertising a fee increase of $200 a semester on top of the recently passed CSU tuition increase feels counter-intuitive to conclusive and comprehensive student success.

Student fees cover services such as the Recreation Center and the Student Health and Counseling Center that exist on campus to aid student success and reduce stress. The same student fees would go towards the construction of the Bold New U.

But how productive is it to induce a fee for a building students may or may not use dependent upon their preferences – especially when a portion of students are already suffering from something as mentally and physically daunting as financial stress?

Let’s call it what it is – the Bold New U is realistically a want and not necessarily a need.

If it really is within the best interest of students to build a new facility for their use and enjoyment, the administration should be working harder to fundraise. Much like students who don’t mind a room in the Henry Madden Library being named after Table Mountain Rancheria, it’s doubtful that anyone would mind an Apple-sponsored technology hub in the Bold New U.

Before any further decisions are to be made about fee increases, more should be done to reduce the proposed student fee increases.

And realistically, there are needs to meet student growth and success that must to be prioritized before any talk of a new student union.

Arts and humanities students don’t have a building to call home and, instead, are scattered all over campus. Buildings like Social Science and McKee Fisk are dilapidated and in need of dramatic improvements. These are issues that influence student development and success every day.

If offered the promise of fixing already dilapidated classrooms or finding a solution for scattered arts and humanities students, it could be more plausible for a vote in favor of the Bold New U.

In theory, the Bold New U sounds like a perfect idea, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s the right time to impose such a large financial burden on future students at this institution.

Student needs will be met by the new USU, but not in the ways they could be met with the improvement or development of other new facilities on campus to improve the lives of all students – not just the ones who will use the Bold New U.

  • Dan Waterhouse

    The answer to the question: can fees for a new USU (or an expanded Rec Center) be used instead for classrooms is very simple: NO.

    Discussions are underway for raising funds from the community for a new performing arts center near Shaw and Maple. That private money would be leveraged with state funds to build classrooms and office space for the College of Arts and Humanities as a part of the complex.

    No one disagrees the older buildings on campus need major upgrades. However, funding that work is going to take many years of discussion with legislators and convincing voters to approve the billion dollar bonds necessary to address deferred maintenance and new buildings on campuses statewide.