April 2, 2008
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine
Students vote in record numbers to support building new Union
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Students at Slippery Rock University turned out in record numbers this week to tell University administrators and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education leadership that they want a new student Union - and are willing to pay for one.
In online voting conducted by Student Voice, an independent third-party contractor, 26.69 percent of SRU's currently registered students voted, a record number for any University referendum. Recent Student Government elections drew less than 300 voters.
Of the 2,242 votes cast, 2,086 were in favor of building a new Union, 78 were to renovate the current Union and 78 to do nothing.
"I'm not surprised by the turnout or the vote," said Larry Brink, Student Government Association president. The SGA supported the proposal and Brink and several student leaders presented informational sessions throughout campus about the project. The campus newspaper, The Rocket, also endorsed building a new Union.
"The vote tells me that students recognize the need for a new Union, one that will be used as an activity center where you can watch a movie and get something to eat," said Jesse Williams, an education graduate student from Kittanning.
"It's going to give us a lot more space, and it will be a great convenience - bigger and better," said Stephanie Dublin, a freshman education major from Slippery Rock. "It's really going to draw students to the University."
The issue of what to do with the student Union has been a topic of conversation around campus for two years, Brink said.
"Our current Union was built in 1968 to serve a population of 3,000 students. The same facility now serves more than 8,300 students, 1,000 faculty and staff and more than 10,000 visitors a year. It's always crowded, doesn't have the type of space students and student organizations need, and is really showing its age," Brink said.
"Students voted in 2005 to fund a new Union on a new site, but because there was a delay in getting the project approved through the state system, we needed to demonstrate to the Board of Governors that this is still a priority project we are willing to support with our fees," Brink said.
Brink led the effort to have a Universitywide referendum that presented students with three options: (A) to build a new Union and convert the current Union to a student services building, which would have a fee of $382.50; (B) to renovate the current Union, which would have a fee of $404.30; or (C) to do nothing at all, which would have a fee of $346.
"Students already pay a Union fee since the state doesn't fund auxiliary buildings. What we demonstrated in this referendum was what the cost to a student would be in 2011-2012 for each of the options. After this vote I don't think there should be any question as to what students want," Brink said.
Funding for the project still has to be approved by the PASSHE Board of Governors. The board is expected to review the proposal at its April 9-10 meeting.
"It's absolutely a great idea, it's going to be a showcase facility for Slippery Rock University," said Andrew Reade, a public relations major from Erie. "It will be a campus focal point, something brand new, and it will provide better space for University events."
"We're a growing University and the new Union will address the needs of students and help us continue to grow," said Jennifer Sanborn-Miller, a graduate counseling student from Slippery Rock. "The new one will be like a town center, it will be more of a happening place where you can find a number of services."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.