North Texas Daily

University plans renovations for Union

University plans renovations for Union

November 10
23:13 2009

By Amber Arnold / Senior Staff Writer –

The University Union is more than 30 years old and is only equipped to accommodate 17,000 students.

Since the enrollment has grown to more than 36,000, the administration said the building is becoming inadequate.

UNT began developing the Union Master Plan in September, but the timeline and cost are still unknown.

“We’re at a crossroads, and we’ve got a lot of issues we need to address,” said Bonita Jacobs, vice president for student development. “I don’t know where it will lead, but I’m hopeful that we don’t have to tear the building down and leave students without a union.”

During the assessment of the condition of the building in July, consultants found weak infrastructure and asbestos lurking in the ceilings.

Master plan committee members are now visiting other universities with new or remodeled unions, such as Texas Tech, Louisiana State, and Georgia Tech universities, to see what they have done, said Tom Rufer, assistant vice president for auxiliary services.

The committee has a mission of being 100 percent transparent and involving students in every step of the process, Jacobs said.

A university-wide survey was sent out in early October as a way to find out what students, faculty and staff preferred for the Union’s future.

The committee received 4,200 responses, more than 3,200 of which were students, and results of the survey are expected in early December.

“I have been very impressed with the participation level of students, faculty and staff in the way of focus groups surveys and requests of information,” Jacobs said.

The university has to work backward, in that they are finding out information first and determining cost, construction, and a timeline later, Jacobs said.

Since the Union is paid for through the Union fee in every student’s tuition, there will be fundraisers to avoid increasing the fee.

“I’m always hopeful that we don’t have to add to the financial burden that students already carry,” she said.

In keeping with the practice of involving students, Rufer said the university would consider giving students different options of what the Union would offer at different costs and let students choose from the options.

Jacobs said that the committee is fairly certain now that the Union is in the right spot on campus.

However, UNT must decide whether to phase in structures to the existing building or replace it altogether, she said.

Rufer said that replacing the Union has been on the university’s agenda for quite some time, but figuring students’ needs would come first.

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