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UWM students vote down referendum to fix student union

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have voted against pursuing an increase in student fees to renovate the UWM Student Union.

The vote was 6,570 in favor, 8,856 opposed and 3,034 abstaining. The proposed renovation would have added up to $124 per semester to student fees.

“While we may have preferred a vote that would set the path toward a building project, we hear the students and will take their voice into account as we move ahead and work to maintain and enhance the current facility and create an environment that is comfortable for students,” said Chancellor Mark Mone. “We will continue to work with student organizations who helped support the effort and other administrative partners to craft a plan that allows the Union to live out its mission of service to UWM students.”

Had the referendum passed, it could have provided funding to renovate the 60-year-old building to upgrade inefficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, increase energy efficiency and improve amenities like student gathering areas, meeting and event spaces and restaurant and food options.

“We asked students to support an increase in their fees at a time of heightened concern about the cost of a college education,” Mone said. The referendum was advisory – the Board of Regents and UW System would have had to approve the renovations and any fee increase.

University officials said they were pleased with the voting process that garnered 18,460 student votes. Based on feedback from UW System colleagues and the Board of Regents, UWM linked the vote to the registration process for spring semester classes, according to Richard Thomas, director of the Student Union.

“By placing the referendum on students’ enrollment ‘to-do’ lists, we were ensuring that every UWM student had an opportunity to vote, and to review important information in advance of voting so they could make an informed decision,” he said. “To our knowledge, this type of referendum has never been done before in the UW System.”

UWM wanted to ensure that both those who used the union daily and those who did not, but who would be affected by a fee increase, would have an opportunity to vote, Thomas said.

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