Associated Students President Hieu Le has proposed a renovation for the University Center (UCen), where many students go to grab a bite to eat, hang out with friends, or shop at the bookstore.
Currently, the UCen feels like a shopping mall. There are several cafés, restaurants, and convenience stores which are useful; yet, the space could be utilized better for people who don’t necessarily want to buy anything. Renovating the UCen will be beneficial to students and campus organizations in the long run by creating a more student-oriented space, replacing the retail-based atmosphere.
The proposal includes elements — like tripling the size of the A.S. Food Bank — that are geared towards students’ needs. With the expansion, there will be more produce and food storage available. Also, students won’t have to go through two floors just to get to the food bank.
Another valuable element of the UCen is the Health and Wellness Center. This center meets some of the most important needs for the campus. President Le hopes an expansion will allow the center to provide preemptive care like addressing test-related anxiety, with which students are all too familiar. This is especially important because making an appointment with Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) is sometimes difficult.
The Health and Wellness Center would expand CAPS and have more mental health counseling rooms. After all, there’s no harm in having more egg chairs, a massage room, and a yoga meditation room to help students relax.
However, some argue the renovation would raise student fees. In fact, Le’s proposal actually considers student expenses and tries to alleviate the financial burden on Gauchos as much as possible. Le wants to secure more donor-based funding to offset student fees. In addition, he has solidified a partnership with the Office of Development, a department that fundraises for UCSB. The office committed to raise between $10 to $20 million dollars for this project.
The proposal is mindful of students who can’t afford the fee as well. A $25 reimbursement fund is built into the fee itself. This return aid would first go to the Financial Aid office and then be given to students unable to afford a fee increase.
As part of Le’s proposal, student organizations could also have their own kiosk booths to fundraise. The UCen is an ideal place for groups to network and fundraise, since many students go here between classes.
One of the best parts of the proposal is how students can stay involved in the renovation plan. Everything is subject to student approval, and Le plans to introduce an education-based campaign in order to keep students informed on what’s going on. If students vote to pass Le’s proposal, the design and programming phase would begin next year. In the future, Gauchos can even go to meetings with the architect.
Six years ago, A.S. started making plans and doing research to transform the UCen. It’s time to get the UCen renovation plans going. The proposal provides more resources for students, from more available mental health care to a larger food bank that can reach more people.
Although student fees would slightly increase, the plan does its best to cut down what students would pay. While keeping students’ needs and finances in mind, President Le’s proposal will make campus a better place for current and future students.