For those who aren’t aware, SDSU students are being asked to vote yes on a referendum to increase our fees by $94 per semester in order to fund a new “Modern Space Student Union.” I just heard of this recently and checked out the website to see what it’s all about.

When I first looked at the website, I found a laundry list of why this is beneficial and necessary. I also saw lots of fancy pictures and, like a good consumer, became excited about the prospect of SDSU having this new state of the art building. I thought I should vote yes on this referendum so that future SDSU students could enjoy this new space which looks quite comfortable, and has the added benefit of being an environmentally friendly building. After I sobered up from the “chance to buy something fancy” consumerist stupor induced by the modern space website, I decided that voting yes on this is a bad idea. Here’s why:

The new student union will cost an awful lot of money, and I think that, while the new building would be nice, it is not the best way to spend such a large sum of money.

One of the first things I wanted to know is exactly how much this will cost. Sure, its $94 per student per semester, but what is the total cost of the project? I couldn’t find this information anywhere, so I had to calculate it myself. I found that SDSU has approximately 30,000 students who will be paying $188 per year for 30 years. That means the project will cost us $5,640,000 per year, for a total cost of $169,200,000. Wow, I thought. Voting for this means voting to extract 169 million dollars from the SDSU student body. After coming up with this large number, I thought to myself, “If I could spend 196 million dollars to benefit SDSU, how would I do it?” Many things came to mind, and in the end, tearing down our existing aztec center and building a new one fell to the back of this list. Here are some ways to spend this much money which are, in my opinion, more beneficial than the new modern space student union:

Decrease Book Costs

With this amount of money, over 5 million dollars per year, SDSU could easily buy many copies of every book used in every class and allow us to check them out from the library. Sure, we’ve got the reserve books, but in practice there are so few copies available that you have to head to the library at 2 a.m. and is isn’t feasible to get through a class without buying the book. Also, reserve books must stay in the library. If I had this much money to spend, I would devise a system where textbooks can be checked out for special 2 day periods and where there are enough on hand to meet student demand. This way, we would never have to buy another overpriced book, and I bet we could create such a program at a far smaller expense than the new student center.

Increase Study Abroad Programs

The associated students have previously decided to increase study abroad funds. This is great in my opinion, but studying abroad still set me back several thousand dollars. Rather than build this new center, I would like to see SDSU take the same funds and make a program where students get the opportunity to study abroad with all expenses paid. Studying abroad, in my experience, creates a bigger and longer lasting impression on a student than any other potential educational experience. America has a big problem of not being able to see beyond our 50 states and I think that increasing our study abroad program would be far more beneficial than a new student center. Would you rather sit in a comfy chair studying in a state of the art building, or fly to Italy and study on the shores of the Mediterranean?

Increase Merit Based Scholarships

Most of the students I know, who are not getting a free ride from their well-off parents, are working their asses off to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses each semester. I wonder if all of these hard working students would rather see this tax go into a fancy new building, or have the funds be awarded to the students who work hard and demonstrate academic success. Its unfortunate that students have to come up with so much money to buy their education in our society. The least we could do with a flat tax of $188 per year is redistribute it to those students who show they really want to be here succeeding in school.

Reduce Class Sizes

I know that on the web site for this referendum it says we cannot control the tuition which is mandated by the state and how that tuition is spent. This being so, if we were to self impose a 5 million dollar fee increase, I don’t see why we couldn’t allocate it to hiring more teachers and reducing class size, thereby ensuring that we get a decent education where we are able to have some one-on-one contact with professors.

Now is Not the Time

At the end of the day, I do not think this new student union is the best possible allocation of funds. I think there are numerous things we could do with our money which would benefit students substantially more than a fancy new student union. Just last week me and many other students walked out of class in protest because student fees are raising while our educational experience is degrading. This substantial increase in fees would make our educational experience suck for the next two years, and then it would make it only slightly better once the building is complete. Already, due to state mandates, lower class america is being priced out of an education. Do you think that the highschool student who spoke out last week about her struggle to get accepted into and pay for college would rather fork over an extra hundred bucks each semester for a fancy building, or would she rather be able to afford an education while settling for a less than optimal building? In my opinion, this fancy new building would be nice, but it is irresponsible in our current climate of raising fees and lowering education quality. This is why I say vote no on the Modern Space Student Union Referendum.