March 24, 2014

SGA challenges University over SAC renovations

By Jacob Abrahamson–

This story continues on a story from October by Simon Isham. You can view it here.

In a debate that has continued since October 2013, SGA continues to be at odds with U of L administration over the future of the old gym space in the Student Activities Center (SAC). SGA President Carrie Mattingly says that the University has backed away from what seemed to be a mutual agreement on the future of the space.

“The understanding always was that all of that space would be renovated and turned into new meeting space for students and one large convocation area,” said Mattingly.

According to Mattingly, the University has moved away from this understanding by giving two of the gyms to the spirit teams, cheerleading and dance, for use as practice space.  The teams currently practice at a location off campus.

After negotiations with the administration, which included a rejected offer for Athletics to buy all four gyms for $2 million, Provost Shirley Willihnganz said that the two of the gyms will be given to athletics for two years, and expressed hope to make this arrangement agreeable to SGA.

“The Provost and others have been working with both athletics and SGA to try and come to some resolution that would satisfy everybody,” stated University Spokesperson Mark Hebert.

Mattingly says, however, that the current situation is unacceptable based on the previous agreements about the renovation.

At their meeting on Tues. March 18, the SGA Senate unanimously approved, for the third time, a 2012 resolution which states that this part of the SAC “should remain space that is able to be utilized by all students, and therefore opposes any sale of this space to athletics.”

SGA has launched the “Students First” campaign.  They have developed a petition which students can sign in support of keeping this space for students, are going to hand out buttons and are planning a rally at the bottom of the ramp to the SAC on March 26.

Since the opening of the Student Recreation Center (SRC) in October 2013, the intramural sports area of the SAC has been mostly vacant.  The area, which holds four gyms, racquetball courts, workout areas and offices, has been rented out for various purposes since the SRC opened.

The official SGA proposal for the SRC, approved in 2011, states that “the remaining space within the current SAC Intramural Area should be utilized for student lounge and meeting space needs, unless an arrangement can be reached between the University and SGA leadership to better utilize the space to enhance student life.”

Additionally, the SGA’s 2020 Plan, which was approved by the University, states that the SGA had a goal of achieving “significant renovation” by 2016, including using the newly open space for “meeting areas, dining facilities, or another type of space that students are asking for.”

The renovation was to be paid for with a part of the $9.6 million brought in with the Student Building Fee, which is bundled with tuition.  The $15 per semester fee, which began in 1983, was recommended by the SGA and is “applied toward maintenance, debt service and renovation of the SAC.”  The building was paid off in 2007, so the money accrued since then was to be used for this project.

“We’ve effectively been paying for this building for well over 30 years now,” said former SGA Chief Justice Brandon McReynolds, who served on the SRC Finance and Scope Committee which drafted the SRC proposal.  “Not only is it called the Student Activities Center, but students paid for it as well.”

“We’ve been saving up that money since 2007 to do this renovation and now it is being taken away from us by athletic entities,” stated Mattingly.

The point we’re trying to make is that it is the Student Activities Center. There is no reason at all why a portion of the Student Activities Center should be given to a couple of athletic teams.”

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