Mar 26, 2019
Renderings show a proposed ballroom inside the New USU. Students will get to vote on whether or not to build the project on campus on March 20-22. (University Student Union)

Now that the New USU has been approved, these are the next steps

The New University Student Union is officially under development after Fresno State students voted to approve the $60 million project just before spring break.

There was a large shift in support for the project compared with last year’s election results for a similar project. According to voting records provided by Associated Students, Inc., 1,212 students voted in favor for a the Bold New U referendum in 2017. One year later, that number doubled to 2,728 “yes” votes. This increase lead to last year’s 40 percent of “yes” votes to jump to 67 percent this year.  ASI also reported that this year’s election had the highest voter turnout.

The “yes” vote provided a much-desired victory for supporters of the project, but now the challenge lies in moving forward. Juan Guzman, graduate assistant for the USU board of directors, said the board is still in the early stages of deciding how to move forward with the project. The first meeting, which is closed according to Guzman, will take place Monday at noon in the USU.

The USU board will meet again on Monday at 3:30 p.m. for a public meeting in USU 312.

Guzman said the board will search for an architectural and construction firm to help design and build the project, but it has yet to decide on serious candidates for the job.

“[The school] first needs to compose a bid and send it out, and from there we will see what firms are interested in working with us,” Guzman said recently.

A bid will be composed by the school and will be sent to architects and construction firms. The bid will contain the nature of the project and budgetary requirements to complete it.

From there, a construction firm and an architect will be picked from those that are interested. The team of the architect and construction firm will then design a blueprint and a timeline for the construction.

Though students got a glimpse of how the New USU may look once built, Guzman said the renderings could change during the design process.

One aspect of the project that will remain intact is the “student-led” process that dominated the New USU campaign and helped it stand out from the previously failed Bold New U campaign. Guzman said the board hopes to involve students throughout the process by providing opportunities to directly contribute.

“[The USU board] will try to be in touch with a number of the schools on campus to try and organize internships where students can work directly with the New USU,” Guzman said.

Guzman suggested the internships would be organized through the Lyles College of Engineering; Construction Management; and the Craig School of Business. But he said that the general student body will also have the opportunity to contribute as well.

“We will hold big forums, and there will be more surveys for them to decide how they want the building exactly to be,” Guzman said.

The New USU comes with a $149 increase in student fees, but the fees will not be placed until the building is opened. The administration’s role in the funding comes via money it has set aside for the project, as well as fundraising another $10 million.

Dr. Frank Lamas, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, said there is no precise plan yet as to how that money will be raised, but some general ideas, like naming of some facilities, will be discussed.

“In general, we will be reaching out to those people who have an affinity to co-curricular life and think what a brand new union will do for our community,” Lamas said.

Alumnus Dan Waterhouse recently pledged his financial support for the New USU. He has committed to donate a little more than $10,000 for the project. After the New USU vote was announced, Waterhouse committed to giving a $3,000 cash donation and he will cover the remaining amount over a 24-month payment cycle.

“I’ve been involved in the campaign for the last two years,” Waterhouse said. “During the campaign, I made a commitment that I would donate.”

ASI President-Elect Demi Wack said that she will continue to advocate for outside funding for the New USU, considering that resistance to the project was due to the fee increase.

“This donation from Dan is a great step in the right direction,” Wack told The Collegian. “I also think we need to continue to listen to students to see what other ways we can make them feel most comfortable with the construction.”

Guzman, from the USU board, said the board’s plan is to break ground for the building by next summer. In order for that to happen, according the New USU website, they will need to have their schematic and financial plan approved by the CSU board of trustees.

Guzman said meetings between the USU board and some student leaders involved with the project will be taking place throughout the semester in order to move the plans forward.

Digital Editor Hayley Salazar contributed to this story.

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