UND students could vote in November on whether they want a new Memorial Union.
The new union that is slated to cost about $80 million would have a patio on top, UND President Mark Kennedy said, and more "engaging spaces inside." If approved, the old Memorial Union would be demolished, and the new structure would be built on the same spot.
"We want to make sure our campus is attractive to prospective students," Kennedy said. "This student decision will have a significant impact on campus for years to come."
The new building also would have more space for student organizations and space for retail to come in, along with updated heating and ventilation systems.
Student body President Erik Hanson said a new student union has been a main topic of conversation on campus for the past four years. Even if a new union is voted down, students still would have to pay fees associated with maintaining the old one, Hanson said. The estimated cost of maintaining the current building is $40 million.
Student fees pay for the Memorial Union and the people who work in it. UND students would pay for the new union annually, but the exact cost per student has yet to be determined, Hanson said.
"We've been putting bandaids on this building for a long time now," Hanson said. "And once I explain the cost of a new one and the cost of fixing the old one, people usually change their minds."
Student government wants to have students vote on the building in late November, but it still is too early to announce a date, Hanson said. Before the student body votes in November, the Student Senate will vote in mid-October on whether to bring the issue to a vote and whether they will recommend a new union.
Whichever way the Senate votes, the issue will be brought to the student body, Student Body Vice President Kaleb Dschaak said.
"We'll be taking this to students on as many avenues as possible and explaining what it means if you vote no, what it means if you vote yes," Hanson said. "Social media, passing along information to different student organizations, holding public forums."
Kennedy mentioned other changes at "Wake Up to UND" on Tuesday, including upgrading STEM labs, more public-private partnerships, revamping parking lots at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and a remodel of the Chester Fritz Library.
"I'm looking forward to hearing what the students have to say when they vote," Kennedy said. "This is a student decision, we're not weighing in on this."
If students approve a new Memorial Union, the plans would then need to be approved by the State Board of Higher Education and the state legislation. After the building is approved by all necessary parties, a year-long planning process would begin.
"Students' voices will be heard," Hanson said. "They'll be a part of it every step of the way."