Liana Riley is a political science senior and Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
If you haven’t seen the sleek images juxtaposing an idyllic scenery of students studying while others enjoy a drink at the sports bar with presumably all-legal drinkers in the middle of the day, then do you actually attend Cal Poly?
Sorry for the sly dig at your school attendance, but this is the truth considering how contentious the “This is your UU” campaign has become on campus in recent weeks. I don’t know about you, but I have been bombarded with Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU) flyers and a 20-minute Q&A about the new UU in at least three of my classes.
There are promotional videos on replay in the UU, Facebook pages dedicated to the cause and websites both opposing and promoting it. This is no small undertaking.
The $180 million project boasts a bar and grill, more study space, healthier dining options and additional areas designated to cross cultural centers.
Yet there have been objections about the expansion, calling it wasteful, excessive and, most commonly, expensive. And I must agree. It is hard to stomach the idea of such luxury on a campus where most of the teachers barely earn a living wage.
This brings me to my two major problems with the UU expansion:
- The conflicting nature of the interests of the noncollegiate residents and the university.
- This is an effort that could be dedicated to improving other campus resources.
First and foremost, the residents of San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly have a conflicting dynamic when it comes to virtually every issue in the city’s history. Anytime there is even the slightest whisper of expansion, a whole city council meeting is dedicated to protest the university’s agenda without question. Yet the school continues to develop newer, more expensive infrastructure that clearly is in conflict with the small town atmosphere that the residents of San Luis Obispo have tirelessly fought to maintain for decades.
At one time there was talk of building a road connecting Prado Road to South Higuera Street, and the entire city was up in arms with picket signs the next morning.
The new UU is not just a construction project, it is a symbol for Cal Poly’s transformation into an innovative university with modern infrastructure, pioneering the way with its Learn by Doing attitude.
It seems as if many of these changes are far too little too late. What we are attempting to make up for with shiny new buildings, we are seriously lacking in the classroom level. Specifically, the faculty-administration conflict of 2015. The argument for higher faculty salaries, which we are all familiar with by now, is rearing its head again. How can our administration justify this venture when our faculty is currently in talks of striking over their salaries?
One of the major complaints echoed by students across the board is: Why aren’t we spending this money elsewhere?
This brings me to one of my concessions: the money is coming from a bond from the state government. To my understanding, it is not as if we can simply transfer these funds directly to our campus faculty, classrooms or student tuition. So, if we can spend the money in only one way, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing if it goes toward improved building development.
And, of course I do have concessions, no one looks at the Recreation Center in hindsight and regrets its development. If anything, it is a source of pride for Cal Poly students, a point of interest for prospective students. So could the glorious UU become something as Cal Poly proud, in a similar vein as its predecessor?
The concept of a bigger UU with better infrastructure, design and purpose sounds like a great investment on paper, but in practice I fear that the disconnect between the wants of the students, administration and city residents is far too challenging.
The referendum deciding the UU’s future is Feb. 24-25. Make it a priority to vote and help cement the future of this campus. Don’t forget, hindsight, like the UU projected date of completion, is 20/20.