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Media Memo: UW-Eau Claire Students Respond to Davies Center Project Questions

TO: News and Assignment Editors

FROM: Mike Rindo

DATE: April 17, 2007

SUBJECT: UW-Eau Claire Students Respond to Davies Center Project Questions

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student leaders today sent the following letter to members of the legislature's Joint Committee on Finance in response to questions raised in an April 12, 2007 news release issued by Representative Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford).

For additional information, contact Ray French, Student Body President at 715-836-4048.

 

April 17, 2007

TO: Honorable Members of the Joint Committee on Finance

FROM: University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Student Leaders

Member of Joint Finance,

As University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students who have been directly involved in the student led initiative to redevelop Davies University Center, we respectfully question whether State Representative Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) properly researched the students building initiative prior to issuing an April 12, 2007 news release "raising questions about the need and support for" the $48.8 million project.

Rep. Suder's release contains several inaccurate statements we would like to correct.

Statement: "The students at UWEC resoundingly rejected this project twice." False. There have been two referendums held on this issue — the first one in spring 2000 to increase segregated fees to make $8.5 million in necessary structural improvements to Davies Center was supported by 76 percent of students. A second referendum in spring 2003 failed.

Statement: The project currently "lack(s) sufficient student support." False. Two campus-wide surveys of students demonstrate strong student support for Davies Center redevelopment. An April 2005 survey determined 75 percent were in favor of a Davies Center building project. A December 2005 survey indicated 64 percent supported the segregated fee increases necessary to finance Davies Center redevelopment. It is important to note that the response rates to both surveys were significantly greater than is typical of student voting habits on campus.

In addition, Student Senate, which is elected by students to represent them through shared governance, approved the Davies Center redevelopment proposal - as did the United Hall Council (another student governing body) and the Davies Center Advisory Committee.

Further, the Davies Exploratory Committee, led by students, held 13 campus focus groups and an open forum to receive input into whether to pursue a Davies Center project and, if so, on what scale.

Statement: "It is estimated that student feesmight rise by as much as $125 per semester for the next several years if the project is approved." Partly false. Beginning in fall 2007 fees would increase by about $31 and rise gradually thereafter. Fees could eventually increase by up to $125 per semester — but not until 2010.

Statement: The Davies Center project "may not be necessary in the first place." False. Davies Center opened in 1959. A 1964 addition doubled its size, with additional expansion and updates made to the building in 1976, 1982 and 1991. The "Davies Center Evaluation Report: 2003" identified numerous structural and maintenance deficiencies (this is only a partial list):

  • The building does not conform to the new state building code with respect to fire safety and handicapped accessibility no elevators meet handicapped needs
  • Significant wall and floor cracks have developed due to settling the upper floor kitchen has cracked along a structural joint causing water leakage
  • Vinyl-asbestos floor and asbestos insulation is present
  • Plumbing, electrical, heating, and ventilation systems require major repair or replacement — and food preparation facilities are inadequate
  • The roof over the 1976 addition has reached the end of its expected useful life

Overall, Davies Center lacks sufficient meeting, dining and performance space for a student population of 10,500. There currently are more than 200 campus organizations, but only 14 meetings rooms in Davies Center and only 50 "cubicles" available for all organizations. Despite what Rep. Suder said in his news release, remodeling of Dulany Inn and the student organization center does not increase available space.

For the past seven years, UW-Eau Claire students have been examining the question of whether to pursue a major Davies Center redevelopment project. The Davies Exploratory Committee was created in 2000 after it was determined that Davies Center was in such poor condition that the original approved budget amount of $8.5 million would not be enough to expand the building and do the extensive renovations that were needed. The 2000 referendum resulted in increased student fees, which will be applied to the cost of this project.

We have sufficiently researched the proposal by touring eight other student unions in three different states, studying similar student union projects in Wisconsin and working closely with consultant Brailsford and Dunlavey to conduct surveys and examine options. In December, 2006 we presented our case to the UW System Board of Regents, which unanimously approved the Davies University Center redevelopment project. We hope the Joint Committee on Finance will do the same.

Respectfully,

Ray French
Student Body President
Davies Exploratory Committee Member

Chris Nielson
Former Student Body President
Chair, Davies Exploratory Committee

Christopher Wagner
Former Student Body Vice President

Aaron Olson
Former Student Body President

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