A number of campus-wide projects could soon get under way at UL, pending a student vote to raise semesterly fees.

The vote, set for Oct. 8-9, is the brainchild of UL’s Student Government Association and would likely fund a beautification project for the quad, more lighting on campus for increased security and a dedicated paths for cyclists, among other items included in the university’s 10-year master plan.

                           Renderings of UL's master plan by Architects Southwest
SGA’s stance, says SGA President Ashley Mudd, is that by passing the fee increase, loans will immediately become available to the university. That means dirt could start flying on several “prioritized” master plan projects, possibly before semester’s end. The proposed increase for students per semester would be $7.50 per credit hour with a cap of 15 hours, and revenue derived from the fee increase would be solely dedicated to funding master plan projects, Mudd says.

Mudd tells IND Monthly that the fee increase also would help the university move forward on a $20 million project to build a new parking garage at the corner of St. Mary and Cherry streets. Other projects included in UL’s master plan range from the construction of new research facilities and an amphitheater at Cajun Field to the addition of a tram along St. Mary Boulevard.

Next week’s election won’t be the first time UL students have voted in recent years on a self-assessed fee increase. Mudd says student approved fee increases paid for two Bourgeois Hall projects: a $2.4 million aquatic center and a $3 million fitness complex, which was recently completed.

Another student-funded project, according to a recent UL press release supporting the fee hike, is the Student Union renovation, an estimated $40 million undertaking.

SGA members have been spreading the word on next week’s referendum and are confident the issue will pass once all the votes are counted. But if UL’s Facebook page is any indicator of which way the student body is leaning on the issue, the vote could be a tight one.

The university took to its social media platform Thursday morning to remind students about next week’s referendum. Within seven hours, the post had generated 32 comments, 133 likes and 11 shares, making it one of the most popular discussion topics on the school’s Facebook timeline. By 8 a.m. this morning, the post had been liked by 233 people, shared by 29, and the comments numbered more than 40.

While students like Derek Matthew Regan note on the school’s Facebook page that UL is already cheaper than most universities and the increase amounts to a maximum fee increase of only $112.50 a semester, other students like Emily Larkin argue that such money would be better used for hiring more teachers and increasing the school’s course offerings. She writes:

                             UL amphitheatre sketches by Architects Southwest
“Improvements to the campus are important, but they should be a benefit to all students,” Larkin writes on UL’s Facebook page. “Tuition went up to build the parking garage, but to park there students still have to pay and it really didn’t alleviate the parking problem on campus. For my degree, I have to take a certain class that is only offered once during the fall semester and only has 18 seats. The school should be focusing on giving the students a better education. More classes and more teachers to teach those classes is what UL needs most. Not a bike lane or a bigger stadium. I know none of this is concerning to the students whose parents are footing the bill, or those who receive Tops, but when I’m spending my money, education should come first.”

In response, the university notes that the school’s annual allocation from the state has dropped 42.5 percent due to budget cuts.

“The university has actively protected the academic mission despite the cuts. The university will continue to improve learning and academic resources … that priority is not diminished, but indeed fortified by the Master Plan,” school officials write on UL’s Facebook page.

Former student Tony Bonomolo comments that the increase, if approved, would be a benefit to students both now and in the future.

“What students are being asked to invest in is their own and future students legacies,” he says. “They are being asked to say, ‘We will pay for future improvements to a University we would be proud to send our children to.’”

While the numbers for and against the fee seem about even as of today, next week’s vote is expected to bring a higher than normal turnout, says Mudd. On average, about 15 percent of students participate in school elections.  

Click here to read UL’s press release supporting the fee increase.

Check out the referendum’s Facebook debate here.

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