Lower Sproul Revival Would Raise Student Fees

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Students will decide the fate of an ongoing effort to revitalize Lower Sproul Plaza next week while voting on a fee referendum to fund roughly half of the plan in the 2010 ASUC General Election.

The referendum asks students to approve a 40-year campus-based fee-starting at $35 per semester-to partially fund an approximately $220 million plan to renovate buildings and provide and improve student services in the plaza. If approved, the fee will remain at $35 for five years before increasing to $150 for the sixth and seventh years, according to the Lower Sproul Student Council, which oversees the project.

Due to UC policy, 33 percent of the fee will be returned to financial aid so students who qualify for aid will not have to pay the fee increase.

"This fee embodies many of the (campus-based) fees that we already pay," said Graduate Assembly President Miguel Daal. "It's the latest in a stream of elective improvements that students would like to see to improve their time at Berkeley. I hope students seize the opportunity to improve their quality of life in Lower Sproul."

Students currently pay a $214

campus-based fee each semester.

Although the fee is not education-based, some students said rising tuition costs may deter them from voting in favor of the plan.

"My tuition is already expensive so I don't want to pay any more fees," said junior Sunghee Kim.

The plan seeks to renovate the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, the Cesar Chavez Student Center and Eshleman Hall to offer services such as a 24-hour study lounge and a permanent Multicultural Community Center, Daal said.

According to Daal, construction will begin after an extensive design phase, culminating in an expected 2017 completion of the renovation.

In addition to partially funding the renovation project, the funds generated from the proposed fee increase-totaling approximately $559 million over the 40 years-will fund costs associated with the redevelopment including operation and maintenance, Daal said.

The council projects the fee will peak at $396 per semester in 2042 before declining again. Daal said that after 40 years, the fee will be set at a low level to finance operations and capital renewal.

Daal said the original project, which would have cost more than $400 million, was downsized in January to make it more affordable.

"The decrease in scope was necessary from a student point of view," said Joseph Guzman, council co-chair. "We reached a really great balance between affordable needs and the ability to accommodate all the programs students wanted."

The current project will be funded by the proposed increase in campus fees, and more than $100 million in campus contributions and other funds, Daal said.

Even though construction will not begin for a few years, Daal said some aspects of the project, like the relocation of the campus Career Center to 2440 Bancroft Way and the opening of Hearst Gym for dance groups and other groups for nighttime practice space, will go into immediate effect.

Despite recent fee increases and budget cuts imposed by the UC Board of Regents, sophomore Rushil Ram said he would be willing to pay the fee.

"There aren't that many other late-night places for students on campus," Ram said. "Lower Sproul has a lot of

potential."

Tags: LOWER SPROUL PLAZA, ESHLEMAN HALL, ASUC 2010 GENERAL ELECTION, LOWER SPROUL STUDENT COUNCIL, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. STUDENT UNION, CESAR CHAVEZ STUDENT CENTER


Contact Stephanie Baer at [email protected]



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