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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Undergraduate and graduate students are far from united in their views about the future of the Reitz Union.

About 50 graduate students, undergraduate students and Reitz Union employees gathered in the Rion Ballroom Wednesday to discuss the proposed Reitz Union fee with Student Body President Jordan Johnson.

The fee would fund the repair and expansion of the union, and a referendum question about the fee will be placed on the spring Student Government election ballot. The proposed fee would charge a $20 flat fee per semester and $3 per credit hour.

Johnson answered questions about the fee and its implications for graduate students.

He said the new union could have added perks for graduate students, including an entire floor dedicated to office space, study rooms and other resources.

“Graduate students are in a place right now where they need help on this campus,” Johnson said.

He said he wants to work harder to get higher wages for graduate students.

If they were paid what they deserve, Johnson said, the additional fee might not be so dramatic, and they would have new resources at their disposal.

But some graduate students described the fee as an extra burden.

Graduate student Robert Gordon said he came to the forum because he does not want to pay the fee.

He said he is not against the renovations but wonders what alternatives SG and the Board of Trustees explored other than implementing a student fee.

Gordon, a member of the Graduate Student Council, which voted unanimously against the fee, said many graduate students would be angry if the fee passed.

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“What I’m wondering is how he feels about alienating an entire demographic of this Student Body to get this fee passed,” Gordon said.

Emily Leary, another graduate student at the forum, said graduate students do not use the Reitz Union for food and entertainment the way undergraduate students do.

“He just keeps saying ‘students,’ and it’s important not to group us all together,” Leary said.

Johnson said he hopes a new and improved Reitz Union would bring the Student Body together and encourage graduate students to use the Reitz Union as a resource, just as the undergraduate students do.

“I think that’s what’s important here,” Johnson said. “This is a student union.”

Johnson said the building still needs millions of dollars in repairs.

“This building, over time, has become insufficient for students, no matter what kinds of students,” Johnson said.

Ben Cavataro, the Student Alliance Party candidate for Student Body president, said the forum generated concern among students opposed to the fee but did not address why the fee would be pertinent for undergraduate and graduate students.

He said he thinks a lot of people are upset the fee has been discussed behind closed doors.

“Student Government needs to hear the voices of the students, and right now I feel they might hear, but they’re definitely not listening,” Cavataro said.

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