Student Experience Center fails to gain legislative approval
Construction of student approved building will be delayed for forseeable future
Published: Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 21:07
Last week, the state legislature in Salem approved Senate Bill 5006, the capital construction bill, which approved bonds for construction throughout the Oregon University System. One project, the Student Experience Center, did not make the cut and found itself without approval to allow the OUS to sell bonds to continue planning and begin construction.
Students in the spring of 2010 approved an additional student fee to construct the building, which will be located in what is now the parking lot adjacent to the Memorial Union. However, the state legislature must approve all bonds on capital construction projects. It is not yet clear why the legislature did not approve the bond for constructing the Student Experience Center.
"The failure to approve of a non-state funded construction project is unusual," MU director Michael Henthorne wrote in an e-mail. "I cannot recall a similar situation in my 25 years, but there is a first time for everything."
This lack of approval is expected to delay the design developmental phase, which was planned to begin in July, as well as the planned completion of the building in the summer of 2013.
"We don't really know what happened," said Jennifer Creighton-Neiwert, Finance and Accounting Manager of the Auxiliaries and Activities Business Center. "We're having a meeting Friday morning to discuss the next steps."
Oregon State University also failed to receive approval on two other construction projects: a proposed classroom building and a residence hall. Those two buildings were to be paid for by an increase in tuition paid by non-resident students.
Jock Mills, Government Relations Director of OSU, believes the buildings did not receive approval because of increased scrutiny by members of the House ways and means capital construction committee.
"Oregon universities experienced increased legislative scrutiny over a wide range of capital funding proposals in the Oregon University System budget. This scrutiny was based on concerns about Oregon's overall debt capacity relative to the state resources available to carry that debt, as well as uncertainty over a number of the costs associated with a number of the buildings," said Mills. "We had not previously experienced this level of review for projects that are solely financed using non-state revenues."
The failure to approve construction has also put into question whether students will be charged the increase in student fees that was approved in 2010. Students had approved an increase of $48 for fall, winter and spring terms, and $36 for summer term.
"We don't know if we will collect (the fee) or won't collect in the fall, but we will try to act in the best interest of students," said Creighton-Neiwert.
Students were scheduled to begin getting charged the fee increase in fall term 2011.
Until the state legislature approves the project, the Student Experience Center remains in limbo. The state legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until February 2012.
The Student Experience Center, if eventually approved, will become the new home to ASOSU, student media, Greek life offices and many other student activities.
Despite the setback, those connected to the project still believe in its viability.
"We will not give up pursuing what the students of the institution have legitimately approved through their vote," said Henthorne. "Today we will feel insignificant when we compare it to the elation of stepping into these new program homes for the first time."
Don Iler, managing editor