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USU Referendum approaches

A giant orange banner that reads, “400 student orgs, 30 cubicles; do the math,” hangs above the University Student Union entrance near Friendship Walk.

In order to publicize the upcoming USU Referendum, Associated Students Inc. spent $20, 000 of the $20,700 available in the advertising budget designated for the USU, ASI communication manager Lindsay San Miguel said via email.

San Miguel said the funds covered the cost of creating a website, producing videos and printing fliers, brochures, t-shirts and banners in order to remind students to vote. USU and ASI staff members wear light-blue referendum t-shirts around campus regularly.

“I hope [ASI] had other things like forms and talking about it before class or during class,” University President Jane Close-Conoley said with regard to ASI’s promotion of the vote. “At the end of the day, I don’t care very much which way it goes. I just would love it if there were 30,000 students who voted, then you’d know what students think.”

If the referendum does not pass at the end of February, a renovation of the USU could still be expected, said David Pantoja, the facilities maintenance supervisor for the USU and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

“…[The] funding’s got to come from else where…” Pantoja said. “Which means… it’s got to come from somewhere. So existing fees [and] existing programs would probably end up being hurt because of that.”

Replacing HVAC air conditioning, plumbing and electrical and mechanical issues would be priorities of any renovation that would occur if the fee increase does not pass, Pantoja said.

Dave Edwards, the ASI associate director and the director of the USU and SRWC, said that the $165 fee increase, if it passes, would last for 30 years in order to entirely fund the renovation.

“[The] fee thing is always an issue, and the student leaders have been very conscious of that,” Edwards said.

ASI Vice President Nayiri Baghdassarian said that if students vote to increase the USU fee, areas of imminent financial burden would soon be apparent.

“For that eighth-grader [potential CSULB student] in the future, maybe we’ll have some way to save [them] money,” Baghdassarian said. “If it doesn’t pass, we would have to cut out of other programs.”

The passing of the USU referendum would approve a five-year, $99 million renovation of the University Student Union, requiring the USU fee to nearly double upon the completion of the project – which is anticipated to occur in 2020.

After the completion of the renovation students would pay the new USU fee, which would leap from $179 to $344 per semester and from $258 from $134 for summer session.

“About 60 percent of that [fee increase] goes to debt service…” Edwards said. “The Union pays the ‘mortgage’ back to the investors who helped build the building for up front. The remaining 50 dollars or so [from each student] is what we use to operate – to pay utilities, to do programs and cervices, buy supplies, etc.”

San Miguel said that students will have more opportunities to ask their ASI and USU representatives direct questions about the upcoming referendum in the days leading up to the vote. Students will be able to vote via email on this issue on Feb. 25-26.

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