Union renovation up to voters

Aside from electing officials into office Tuesday, Florida A&M University students will have the chance to vote on the possibility of a new student union facility. A referendum for the new student union will be included on the ballot along with various FAMU student leadership positions.

If students vote in favor of the referendum, the new student union will not be built right away. Instead, the Student Government Association will be given an idea of what the student body wants and conduct further research on how much this plan will cost.

Morris Hawkins, 35, a fourth-year business administration and finance student from Avon Park, came up with the idea of a new student union on campus. Hawkins, the SGA comptroller, said the current student union doesn’t provide all it can for students.

 “You don’t see too many people socializing in our area now because it’s not catered to students,” Hawkins said. “The only thing catered to students is the TV room and post office.”

Hawkins’ vision extends beyond going into FAMU’s student union to watch TV and mail packages.

“Some ideas that we came up with is a movie theatre that will be inside of the union,” he said. “We want shops inside the union and also more conference areas where campus organizations can come in to have meetings.”

 Plans for FAMU’s new student union also include a welcome area, which will facilitate tours for alumni, new students and other visitors. Student services like the registrar and financial aid will be moved from Foote-Hilyer into the new building.

Senate President Mellori Lumpkin, 20, said it is important to hear the student’s voice concerning this matter.

“We need to definitely get student opinion before we look for a possibility of a new student union,” Lumpkin said.

Henry Kirby, dean of students, agreed with the referendum proposed by Hawkins and SGA.

 “We think this is something we should support,” Kirby said. “We fully concur with the referendum to find out if students agree to have a student union.”

Depending on the response to Tuesday’s referendum, actions will be taken to move into the second phase of the plan – funding the operation. Kirby said this might be the hardest part.

“If students conceptually are willing to pay for it, that’s the big one,” Kirby said. “A second referendum would show if students are willing to direct student fees to a new student union.”

 Hawkins said a multitude of fees would be needed to start building a new student union.

This includes both student fees such as Activity and Service fees and non-student fees such as Capital Improvement Trust Funds and Public Education Capital Outlay dollars.

He said student fees would not be the largest contributor to the project.

“A&S fees will be the lowest portion on the totem poll,” Hawkins said.

More than financing the project, Hawkins said students will have a hard time accepting the student union because of the amount of time needed to build it.           

“The only problem that I think we’re going to have is a time frame,” he said. “Even if we were to get started now, it probably wouldn’t start getting built until two years from now.”

However, Hawkins said students should start putting FAMU before their personal agendas.

“We as students need to get out of the mind frame that we can’t get anything out of the deal,” he said. “If you love your University you would want the betterment of it.”