UND students have voted to build a $80 million Memorial Union.
Students decided Tuesday to make the investment in a new student union. Of the 2,439 students who voted, 53.5 percent of students, 1,306, said yes to the project, while 46.5 percent, 1,133, voted against it.
The building will be paid for through an increase in student fees, which will continue to go up every year by 2 percent.
Students now pay $1.21 per credit hour on a bond for the current union. However, that will go up to $14 per credit hour to pay for the new building, in addition to other student fees they already pay.
More students voted in this election than in this year’s vote on a mascot design and the most recent Student Senate elections, Student Body President Erik Hanson said.
“This has been a student-led process from the very beginning, and really, this has been so much more than about just one building,” he said. “Really, it’s been students buying into a vision of what campus can be.”
About 24 percent of on-campus students voted in the election. However, voting was open for all UND students.
Many, if not most, of the students who voted in favor of the new building may never get to use it, Hanson said, but he said it’s “cool” to see that those students are “forward-thinking.”
“There’s a lot of students that voted for this that they’re going to be paying money for something that they won’t get to use, but what they believed in is they wanted to make a better university for students of tomorrow,” Hanson said.
The new union likely will include a larger convenience store, as well as more retail and food choices. It also will include a flexible multipurpose room and more study and meeting spaces.
The project also seeks to considerably increase natural lighting compared to the current union. The new union likely will have additional space for student organizations, better technology throughout and a rooftop atrium patio.
The student union is “hub of student life” and “epicenter of student activity,” Hanson said.
“(The new building) is something that we hope will create collaborative space and create an energy on campus for development and bringing people together,” he said.
The current Memorial Union was built in 1951 and would have cost around $40 million to maintain through the future, Hanson previously told the Herald.
UND is “thrilled about the passing of the Memorial Union vote,” President Mark Kennedy said in a statement.
“The new space will transform our campus and is an example of our students’ commitment to creating community among our current and future generations of students,” he said.
Hanson said a new student union has been a main topic of conversation on campus for the past four years. The Student Senate looked at many options at several different cost points, including some that were more than $100 million projects, before finally settling on the plans they have now.
“We are proud of the students who led this effort and the student body who saw the importance of investing in the future. This is an exciting time for UND,” Kennedy said.
The process has been entirely student-led, Hanson said, noting that will continue going forward as committees are created and decisions about the final details of the interior of the building are made.
Following the vote, the project moves on to the State Board of Higher Education and the Legislature.
The current building would be demolished, with a new structure built on the same spot. The new building is expected to be finished by the spring of 2021.