WSU Tri-Cities students to vote on fee for union building

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 1, 2013 

Amber Eubanks said its not hard to see the need for a dedicated space for students at Washington State University Tri-Cities

"If you walk around campus you'll find students everywhere because there isn't any space," said the president of the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities.

Eubanks and her fellow student government officials are hoping to remedy that situation this spring.

They will put a ballot before the Richland campus' approximately 1,400 students in March to pay a $70 fee per semester to build a $5 million student union.

Students won't foot the whole bill. University administrators have agreed to contribute to the project through the sale of some land on George Washington Way near Hanford High School.

The parcel is almost 25 acres and zoned primarily for residential development, according to documents provided by the university. The listed price is $1.95 million.

The student fee would be another expense for students when they're already contending with growing tuition costs in recent years. However, student leaders and administrators said the idea has been on the table for a long time, and there's a sense the campus needs a space specifically for students.

"The students will have to decide how important this is," said Interim Chancellor James R. Pratt.

There are some places on campus used by students to socialize and study. But those spaces either are too small, such as the student lounge in the West Building, or a very busy commons area, such as the West Building's atrium, student leaders said.

Eubanks and student association vice president Courtnee Grego said it's especially important on a commuter campus, where students need a place to study and relax between classes as well as foster student relationships and organizations.

"It will help promote a student hangout," Grego said.

According to current plans, the student union would be built behind the Consolidated Information Center. Student leaders said it would be a single level structure with about 6,000 square feet.

Designs haven't been finalized, but Eubanks and Grego said it would include a lobby, lounge, study room, computer lab and game room. Student leaders are set to start promoting the project to students and rallying support as early as next week by handing out information in the atrium.

Pratt acknowledged the fee would be an additional expense for students but student fees on the Richland campus still are relatively low compared to those on the main campus in Pullman.

The project also would fulfill a goal of WSU Tri-Cities' master plan, which calls for a student union.

"It would certainly change the geography of campus when it comes to where students gather and integrate," Pratt said.

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