UC Irvine administrators announced plans last week to run a student fee referendum for funds to build a new Student Wellness and Health Building on campus. The proposal, given last Tuesday at an ASUCI Senate meeting, details the tentative referendum and its implications on campus infrastructure.
According to Dan Dooros, UCI’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Auxiliary Services, Resource Planning and Housing, if approved, the 65,000 square foot building would occupy what is now parking lot 2, adjacent to UCI’s flagpoles. Dooros described this location as the “best option,” despite the potential for creating a parking shortage.
Wellness-related offices across campus would move to the proposed six-story building, freeing up space for more offices in the Student Center and other areas. Simultaneously, a newly-announced initiative to expand Middle Earth dorms will relocate several on-campus offices.
During his proposal, Dooros reiterated UCI’s plans to turn the top floor of Brandywine Commons into an expansion of Middle Earth, creating housing for 495 freshman students. Certain offices currently located on the fourth floor of the Student Center are expected to move to the Middle Earth project, Dooros said, freeing up 9,838 square feet of space. Added to the offices moving into the Student Wellness and Health Center, 44,907 square feet of space will be vacated, primarily in the Student Center.
According to Dooros, the primary function of the building is expansion of mental health services and other related resources.
“The wellness building is necessary because there is strong need for mental health services,” said Dooros. “There have been several buildings constructed since 2007, but most are academic and not student services related.”
During the proposal, ASUCI President Tracy La noted that the same student fee referendum which would help pay for the building was proposed last year, but failed to pass because “the specific services of the building were not enumerated.” In response, Dooros provided ASUCI Senate a list of possible offices which could move into the building, as space permits. These resources include the CARE Office, campus social workers, Career Center, Counseling Center, disability services, Student Health Center, student wellness and health promotion, veteran services, the Food Pantry and the Student Outreach and Retention (SOAR) Center. ASUCI Senate will recommend their priorities to administration this week.
Among UCI’s goals for the building include attaining a counselor to student ratio of 1,000 to one, and expanding the Career Center, which currently has the “least favorable student to staff ratio among the UCs.”
“We do not want students to be disadvantaged because of their facilities. I’m thinking about the future when I say this,” said Dooros. “A clear picture of ten years from now … I want to advocate for more space for my folks to do the work they need to do.”
The details of the proposal were presented to Chancellor Howard Gillman last Tuesday. If the proposal is approved by Chancellor Gillman and ASUCI Senate this quarter, the Student Wellness and Health Building undergraduate fee referendum, at an amount yet undetermined, will appear on the spring 2017 ballot.