Homecoming Referendum To Give Students A Voice In Construction Projects
Sept. 28, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
This homecoming, while students are voting “Sammy for President,” Sam Houston State University’s Student Services division will be asking students to consider two more items on their ballot, items that, like voting in this year’s presidential election, will have an impact on Bearkats for years to come.
While making their choices among this year’s homecoming king and queen candidates, students will have the opportunity to vote for two referendum items, fee increases that would benefit students through the Student Health and Counseling Construction Project, as well as a Lowman Student Center Expansion.
To fund the new construction, requests have been made to increase the Medical Service Fee, paid by students as part of their semester tuition, from $38 to $75 in the spring and the Student Center Fee to its legislative cap, from $60 to $100.
SHSU’s Student Government Association last spring passed resolutions endorsing fee increases after seeking out students’ opinions on the need for the projects, according to Shane Rankin, SGA president.
“SGA members have attended multiple focus groups where they found the sentiment to be very supportive of the need for the construction and expansion projects,” he said. “The Lowman Student Center is the epicenter for student life and the primary meeting place of more than 200 student organizations, and expansion is necessary to accommodate the pace of the growing university. The Student Health and Counseling Center project is a big deal, as well, because the current capabilities of the center are not adequate for what the students of Sam Houston need in regard to healthcare.
“We recognize that students both want and need these projects,” he said. “These are not luxuries; they are necessities.”
As students begin thinking about voting, a “yes” vote would substantiate the feedback that has been received, and student approval of the referendums is the best way for SHSU to begin working to meet those needs as quickly as possible, said Keith Jenkins, associate vice president for Student Services.
“By state law, the two increase-in-fee referendums being placed on the homecoming ballot are required to be voted on by the student body,” he said. “Although state law mandates the vote, we believe that with or without the state law, taking these fee requests before the student body for approval is the right thing to do.”
Students can make their voices heard by placing their votes on Oct. 16-17.
For their money, students will get new and expanded facilities that will better serve their needs in the midst of a rapidly growing population.
The Student Health and Counseling Center Expansion Project would provide an approximately 28,000-square feet, two-story building that would house a combined Student Health Center and Counseling Center in the empty lot previously occupied by King Hall.
Built in 1965, the Student Health Center currently serves a student population that is 222 percent larger than the 5,743 enrolled students that made up SHSU’s student body at that time; despite this large growth, the facility has had no additions or structural changes.
“As SHSU continues to grow, the demand for health center services has also increased,” said SHC director Sarah Hanel. “During last fiscal year, students attended approximately 20,000 appointments for a variety of medical concerns and that trend is continuing this year. During the first two weeks of the current semester the health center had to turn away 206 students because they had no open appointments.”
Demand for Counseling Center services is also high, with an 18 percent increase in appointments during the first three weeks of the semester, according to Drew Miller, executive director for Counseling and Health Services.
“In fact, demand is so high that the Counseling Center has already had to implement a wait list for access to appointments,” he said.
The staffing limitations are a direct result of the spacing issues, as the center has no room to expand providers and one of their nurses sits in a closet.
“The current capacity of female health visits, for example, is limited to four visits per practitioner per day due to the high volume of clinic visits,” Hanel said. “If we saw only female exams then we would reduce the total number of patients we see by half.
“As the cost of health care continues to rise, this expansion will allow us to continue to offer Sam Houston State University students access to affordable, reliable, quality health care on campus,” she said.
The funds generated by the increased fee would not only allow for the construction of a new facility but would allow for the hiring of two to three new physicians, which would allow the Health Center to significantly expand services.
Among these expanded services are easy access to same day appointments, a walk-up pharmacy window accessible from the lobby and outside of the clinic; expanded women's health services; radiology services; extended week-day hours; psychiatric services; and dietary and nutrition services.
“This fee is currently $38, which is the second lowest in the state of Texas, and the proposed rate of $75 would put it slightly below average,” Miller said.
“One of the primary goals of Student Health Services and the Counseling Center is to provide high-quality care for as low of a cost as possible,” he said. “Therefore, it’s important to note that while many other university health centers charge a co-pay or office visit fee on top of the Medical Services Fee, Student Health Services will not charge these extra fees to students. In fact, it is anticipated that the actual Medical Services Fee will not need to be raised again for some time after the referendum increase is implemented. All Counseling Center services will continue to be free to enrolled students.“
Once the referendum is approved, construction is anticipated to begin during the early summer of 2013 and should be completed in time for the start of classes in the fall 2014 semester.
Although the Lowman Student Center has been identified as one of the most important projects for the university in the 2020 campus master plan, student help is necessary in order for the expansion to proceed.
Since its completion in 1963, the LSC has been renovated twice (in 1984 and 2000), and the last renovation was completed for a student population of 12,500; this fall’s 18,000-plus enrollment clearly shows the shortfalls of the existing facility, said Dan McDaniel, director for the Lowman Student Center.
The newest renovation calls for two phases: phase one would build on the former Smith-Kirkley site, and phase two would include renovations to the existing facility.
Plans for phase one would open the LSC to bring in more natural light and create a more inviting place, McDaniel said.
The bottom level of the expansion will be all food services, as a replacement for the existing food court, that would provide more indoor seating and tie into outdoor seating that will be between the building and Avenue J.
The second level ties into the current LSC where the atrium is located and would merge the existing building to the new expansion, as well as connect to the third level of the parking garage. This level would add more meeting rooms and create a pre-event space for events held in the LSC Ballroom or in the large conference rooms.
“We need more large meeting rooms to accommodate our large student organizations,” McDaniel said. “This floor will give us the ability to have four more rooms that will hold more than 100 students or open the rooms for bigger meetings and events.
“The idea is to create an open and vibrant space with a panoramic view of the campus.”
The top floor of the expansion will include a grand ballroom, an 11,000-square foot floor that could seat 650 guests at round tables or more than 1,000 in a chairs-only setting. The current ballroom is 8,000-square foot and seats 450 at round tables or 750 in chairs.
“We will be able to divide the ballroom into smaller spaces to provide additional conference and meeting spaces when it isn’t being used for large events,” McDaniel said. “This space will provide the university with the option of hosting large conferences that we cannot currently support with our existing facilities.”
Phase two would include renovations on the existing structure, calling for adjustments or relocations to some of the third floor offices and conference rooms, in order to create the best, most functional layout.
The most eye-catching component of the LSC expansion project will entail converting the current food court—which will move into the new building as part of the first phase—into an entertainment level.
“We have the option to modify the old food court to create a new arcade-like Kat Klub,” McDaniel said. “The vision is to transition our current Kat Klub to a six-to-eight lane bowling alley with a pub.”
The LSC staff are working with the SHSU bowling coach to create a partnership, as the lanes would benefit both the team and the students.
“The entertainment level with bowling, billiards, and arcade will be a location that gives students a place to have fun without leaving Huntsville," McDaniel said.
Casting Your Vote
Students will receive an email that will enable them to vote on the homecoming ballot. To vote, students should log into their accounts, locate an email referencing the homecoming voting ballot, click on the ballot link within the email, find the items referencing the two referendums, vote and then click “submit.” Each item will be voted on separately. Voting “yes” approves SHSU to increase the fee for that item.
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