Talks underway for proposed new student union

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  • rendering of porposed USU

Talks underway for proposed new student union

Should Fresno State build a new structure to replace its 48-year old University Student Union — a campus landmark that has served students since 1968 as the center for student life?

That discussion, which began two years ago with a feasibility study, continued today (April 12) with the first of two public forums touting the theme “A Bold New Union.” The event was highlighted by conceptual renderings of what the new student union could look like.

The campus community is being asked to provide feedback on whether this new unit should be built and, if so, what amenities should be included. Feedback can be submitted at www.fresnostatenews.com/BoldNewU.

The second campus forum will be April 27 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Kremen Education building (Room 140). A free pizza lunch will be provided.

More than 100 students, faculty and staff attended the first session to her presentations by Dr. Frank Lamas, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and provide them input.

“These campus forums are an opportunity to discuss the proposed new student union and faculty center, review the feasibility study and ask questions to help make a decision about moving forward,” said Lamas, who joined Fresno State in 2014. “No final decisions have been made, and we are open to feedback.”

Concepts for the new facility include a faculty development center designed to support innovative teaching practices, the administrators said. With the addition of this center, faculty would gain space for workshops and collaboration.

Zelezny said the faculty development center would be designed to help faculty in their roles as teachers, learners, scholars and members of the community.

“Built on a foundation of collaboration and cooperation, this center will serve as the heart of academia for years to come,” Zelezny said.

The concept of a new student union developed over the past two years beginning with consultants from the Association of College Unions International visiting the campus to survey students, faculty, staff and administrators about their needs. Student input was obtained through three previous open forums as well as a separate meeting with the University Student Union board.

“Fresno State students expressed frustration at the lack of facility space and emphasized that this was a barrier to student involvement,” the study background says. “During open forums, members of student affairs and other campus divisions voiced similar concerns and added that the lack of space and services to support them have limited their ability to achieve departmental goals.”

Stantec, a national architecture firm specializing in higher education facility design, was hired to develop a feasibility study.

Stantec met with students, staff, faculty and the Academic Senate, President’s cabinet, community members and other campus leaders to develop a vision for a new student union, Lamas said.

The new facility, if approved, would span about 100,000 square feet east of the Henry Madden Library and south of the existing University Student Union, replacing the University Center and Keats buildings near the Amphitheater and Parking Lot 31.

After the April 27 forum, the next phase will be to assess the feedback in anticipation of a student referendum for some of the funding in April 2017. Construction would take a minimum of two years upon approval of funding for the project, Lamas explained.

The existing three-story University Student Union, located in the center of campus near the Henry Madden Library and Peace Garden, houses student government and student activities offices; food venues; a recreation center with bowling alley, billiards and video games; as well as banking, grooming, parking, Internet and postal needs for the University community.

The $1.2 million 55,000-square-foot building opened Nov. 11, 1968 to serve a student population of 10,000 after construction was financed by a referendum in which students assessed themselves $8 a semester.

Today, the USU Productions board of directors – 12-15 voting student positions and three voting administrative positions – governs the University Student Union. Students now pay $60 per semester to support their University Student Union which employs more than 50 students each year and draws an average of 94,000 visitors each month.

The University Student Union once housed the student newspaper, the then-Daily Collegian, and the Fresno State Alumni Association.

It was where the popular four-day Vintage Days spring celebration was hatched in 1974. The celebration runs April 15-17.

The USU’s 15,000 square-foot student lounge on the main level provides students a place to relax, study or visit.

“Decades have passed since the last major upgrade of the student union, yet the campus continues to grow,” the study says. “With enrollment now at more than 24,000 students strong, it is the time to invest in a facility that features the atmosphere, technology and functionality to support student learning and engagement.”

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MEDIA NOTE: For interviews or graphics images, contact Tom Uribes at tomu@csufresno.edu.