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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Editorial: Union fee not the answer to flawed financial plan

    “”Some people use one-half their ingenuity to get into debt, and the other half to avoid paying it.”” – George D. Prentice

    Tomorrow and Wednesday, UA students have a choice between continuing to allow the student union to act irresponsibly or finally forcing it to wise up from its unprofitable act.

    Faced with an impending budget deficit, the union officials are saying that the proposed fee will put the union on sound financial footing. However, if passed, all it will really do is allow the union to continue its inefficient operations and unprofitable expansion plans.

    The proposed fee, which will be tacked on to tuition, will start at $20 next year, rising $10 each year until it hits $40. But none of the money would be needed if the union considered alternatives.

    Despite what fee advocates spew about increased financial need or possible lost services, the issue voters should base their decision on is simple: Whether the union should be allowed to demand from students what it can’t get from customers.

    According to Brad Burns, university relations director for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, the union currently operates money-losing restaurants. If the union has the best spot on campus with a steady flow of students, operates as its own landlord and still loses money, it clearly is not good at running restaurants. Rather than force students to subsidize its own incompetence, it should have considered letting private companies run them.

    It’s so bad that if the union simply donated the space to a private company, it would save money – never mind the prime rent it could charge for the location.

    The union has space that it could lease out to tenants ready to spend a lot of money to be there. According to union figures, Papa John’s pays $400,000 per year for its spot, and other spots in the union could help bring in additional revenue while providing students with more choices.

    To make matters worse, officials want to expand the union with new services that will most likely be unprofitable.

    Having already completed the Highland Market, the union wants to build a similar market on the north of campus. This market will cost about half a million dollars and will be solely for the convenience of students.

    The problem is the union already predicts the market will lose money but wants to build it anyway, according to Burns.

    The university has restaurants on all sides of campus clamoring for even a small share of the student market. They’ll pay the exorbitant rents required to have such high student traffic. But as it stands now, the UA has a blind gorilla in the middle of campus gorging itself on possible profits and ruining fiscal solvency.

    Union officials counter by saying that the union provides valuable services to students and that only 37 percent of the student union generates fees currently. Why not increase the amount of space that generates fees and work to increase revenue at sites that do while reducing costs?

    The union, rather than foisting a fee on the backs of students, should first consider fixing its inefficiency. A “”no”” vote ensures that the union grapples with its own finances in a responsible matter.

    Moreover, in voting no, students will prove they are not the remedy for lost causes or profits, nor are they an easy moneymaker. The measure’s failure would force the union to run itself like a business – which is ultimately what the public expects.

    Opinions Board
    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Caitlin Hall, Michael Huston, Ryan Johnson and Aaron Mackey.

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