I'm glad Isthmus dedicated a cover story to the opening of the new Union South. Its a big project worthy of big print space. It's a helluva upgrade from the eastern european airport terminal that we used to call Union South. Essentially, it looks like a facility built by rich people, rather than students.
Alas, most of the funding for the umpteen plasma screen TVs playing The Big Lebowski over the bowling lanes, the rock-climbing wall and the giant pool tables (finally!) does not come from the donors that UW administration tells us are the key to the university's future. Unlike the many campus construction projects that proudly display signs informing passer-bys that they are not funded by tuition money, most of the new Union South's funding comes out of student pockets. In fact, every UW student kicks in $96 a semester just for the Union South.
Architecturally, the building is truly a "monument to collaboration," as the cover of Isthmus proclaims. The politics behind the Union, however, is a completely different story. (See bottom of post for correction)
In 2005 and 2006, students were asked twice to vote on a referendum approving a hike in segregated fees to fund renovation of the Memorial Union and the construction of a new Union South. The first time 12 percent of students voted and narrowly rejected the referendum. The second time 22 percent of students turned out and the electronic voting system crashed and votes were lost.
The remedy? Hold a paper ballot election, which UW did shortly afterwards, in the spring of 2006.
Just over 6 percent of the student body turned out and approved the referendum. It was that robust display of democracy that will cost UW students $800 throughout the course of their 4-year college career.
Union South was built with the type of collaboration that Jeff and Scott Fitzgerald know and love.
I edited this post because I believe the post unfairly suggested that the author of the piece was to blame for not covering these issues in her story. Again, her story was focused on arts, not politics.
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