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Fate of student union rests with students

By Jill Harden
On January 31, 2012

Cartwright Student Center, considered to be the heart of campus, houses numerous student base organizations including CAB, Valhalla Theatre, and of course the beloved Racquet. Yet potential plans are brewing to tear down this home base in order to build anew and recreate a more central and modernized student center.

Everything comes with a price; and the price tag for a new student center at UW--La Crosse is nothing short of scandalous. The new student center, to be built in the parking lot of Wimberly Hall, is estimated to cost fifty-five million dollars out of student pocket. Along with increasing tuition bills, students will be expected to pay $290 more in student fees each year.

Yet, not to fear, this construction is estimated not to begin until 2016, and the student body has more than one option. Instead of building a new student center, the option exists to renovate the existing Cartwright Center for a mere twenty-six to thirty million, dropping the raise in student fees to $190 per year.

Dr. Larry Ringgenberg, director of student activities and centers on campus, said, "last year we hired a consultant to determine how to fix the issues with Cartwright Center and at the same time look at building a new center all together."

The firm, Kindness Architecture & Planning, is based out of Milwaukee and comes with recommendations from other UW-School systems. However, no building projects can go into motion without advancing to a student referendum to be approved by the student body.

The current status of Cartwright Center is considered by many to be bleak. There is a hole in the duct system that cannot be found, therefore stinting the ability to control the temperature throughout the building, plumbing lines have collapsed, ceiling leaks are found throughout the building, and no sprinkler systems exist, creating fire hazards and personal safety issues.

Even with renovations, Ringgenberg estimates the existing building's lifespan to be just shy of fifty years.  The priority features of a new student center would include Multicultural Student Services and Campus Climate, a Student Life Center, a larger theater for performing arts and guest speakers, and sustainability goals such as a green roof and geothermal elements.

Although expensive, Chancellor Joe Gow views the idea of a potential new student center as a great step forward and a source of pride for UW-L students and alumni. Although the decision to build or renovate is highly up to the student body, Gow hopes the student leaders will be willing and able to educate other students on the value of paying more now for increased benefits later.

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