UCI administration is looking for a donor to contribute $25 million towards funding a $75 million Student Health and Wellness Building, proposed to be built by 2022. UCI is committing $25 million to the building, and hopes to pass a referendum through ASUCI Senate this quarter which would supply an additional $25 to $50 million toward the project through a student fee, if approved by undergraduate voters.
Students voted against a similar Student Health and Wellness Building fee referendum last spring, which would have imposed a $57 fee per student, per quarter. Administration is pushing again for a fee referendum, arguing that the campus needs more available space to accommodate the resource needs of a growing student population. The building, which would be built in Parking Lot 2 near the flagpoles, would free an estimated 40,000 square feet on campus for housing and counseling services, among other resource centers.
At an ASUCI Senate meeting last Thursday, Dan Dooros, UCI’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Auxiliary Services, Resource Planning and Housing, said that finding a $25 million donor for the building would “help cut student costs in half.” Without a donor, students would be expected to pay $50 million in student fees. These fees would not be assessed until construction of the building is complete in three to five years.
Potential donors, according to Dooros, include veterans’ groups and medical establishments such as Kaiser Permanente. Dooros added that if UCI “could find a donor for the whole thing, then there would be no charge for students,” and that “[UCI doesn’t] want students to have to pay for the whole $75 million.”
However, Dooros stressed to the ASUCI Senate that some levying of student funds is likely if the referendum pass.
“This does need to be funded by students, that’s why we are here asking for a referendum,” said Dooros, “I know many of you disagree with this, but it’s out of our control.”
Dr. Frances Diaz, a UCI alum and training director of the Counseling Center, argued that more space dedicated to health and wellness is necessary to serve more than 25,000 students at UCI. She noted that compared to this time last year, the Counseling Center has experienced an 11 percent increase in students seeking help and a 23 percent increase in the number of sessions offered.
“We are seeing this increase of students accessing our services. It is amazing, because of our providers. But we need space for even more providers,” said Diaz. “We recognize we are on a diverse campus and there is stigma with reaching out to mental health services. So we have a lot of out-of-office services, and they are needing space too.”
Dooros again acknowledged ASUCI Senate’s concerns about levying a student fee, but implored them to keep future generations of UCI students in mind when voting on whether to pass the referendum to the student body for a vote in spring 2017.
“We are thinking 20 years out. Someone in 1965 said Middle Earth would be a great idea and your generation is reaping the benefits. Someone thought the ARC was a really good idea and now you’re reaping the benefits today. This is not for your generation. This is for your kids and your kids’ kids,” said Dooros. “If we do not do this, what is the solution?”