The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Student Union passes, results push student engagement

Student Union passes, results push student engagement - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Andrea Rodriguez, Director for Programming in the Executive Branch for SGA speaking at the Student Union along with fellow panelists (from left to right) Joseph Ramon, Director of Communications for SGA, Heather Olague, Assistant Dean of Students/Cisneros Institute for Emerging Leaders, and Zeak Naifeh, Associate Vice President/Dean of Students. Photo by Christopher Valdovinos

Texas A&M University-San Antonio students approved a proposal to build a Student Union financed in part by semesterly fees that would go from $100 per student in fall 2024 to $150 per student in 2029. 

Emily Banda, the director for Student Life, said now that it has passed, it will need to go up to the Board of Regents where they will have the ultimate decision of implementing the fee. 

A Student Union is a building devoted to student activities usually containing lounges, dining options, student support offices, game rooms and other amenities

The A&M-San Antonio Student Union Referendum ended with 71.8% of the 200-plus voters favoring its proposal. The A&M-San Antonio Student Government Association announced the results Nov. 16 in its inaugural newsletter, The S.G.A. Chronicles.

Of 220 total votes, 158 votes favored the new Student Union and 62 opposed. Voting was open on JagSync Nov. 6-10.

The purpose of the building would be to serve students as a place for rest and recreation. 

Minahil Farhan, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Student Government Association described it as “a space for students to come relax, a space for student orgs for storage, more food options, more banquet halls, things for students to go to. A space dedicated for students.” 

Emily Banda, the director for Student Life, said now that it has passed, it will need to go up to the Board of Regents where they will have the ultimate decision of implementing the fee. 

Students would see an increase of $100 in their tuition fee starting in fall 2024. 

“The flat fee that we’re looking at in year one is $100 fee per student in the Fall and Spring semester and that would be half in the Summer. Two years after the initial establishment it’ll increase to $125 and in five years it would increase to $150,” said Banda. 

Town Halls and Student Suggestions

The SGA hosted town halls, tabling events and voting sessions throughout the semester in hopes of increasing student participation. The total number of votes represented about 2.8% of the fall 2023 enrollment of 7,619 students. 

At town hall meetings, students learned what a Student Union is, what amenities it could include, saw samples of what other A&M schools’ Student Unions looked like and what the proposed fees would be.

During the final Student Union Town Hall on Nov. 8 in the Auditorium, attendees asked questions or voiced their concerns about the proposed building. A&M-San Antonio students could not only cast their votes, but also submit suggestions on what they would like to see in the new Student Union building. 

“It’s really student dependent,” said Andrea Rodriguez, director for programming in the executive branch for SGA. “So, whatever you guys push for, whatever you guys really wanna see, your voice is really important and they go a long way.”

Some of the suggestions students made included a movie theater, swimming pool, event rooms, a barber shop, a lazy river and better food court options winning the top suggested amenity. While students can no longer submit suggestions on what they want to see included in the Student Union building, conversations will continue.

“Once we get close to planning and solidifying what goes in the building, we will certainly re-open the conversation with all students as our input is important,” SGA President Deane Gumila wrote in an email to The Mesquite Nov. 16.

Gumila added that students should direct any additional questions about the Student Union to the SGA at

Justifying the cost

The issue has raised some concerns because it would result in an increase of tuition. Another concern is how current students will benefit. They will be paying into it, but by the time the building is finished and able to be used, most students will have graduated from the university.  

There has been discussion over the possibility of alumni having the benefit of being able to use the building as well. 

“They’re discussing whether alumni might have special access to it. They can come back and get access to the student union,” Farhan said.   

One of the ideas is making it a legacy project, to honor the current students.

“We’ve talked about putting bricks of students’ names on it, plaques to recognize the classes who have been able to leave part of this as their legacy on the building, to recognize their contribution to it in helping the growth of our campus come to fruition. Unfortunately, campuses can’t grow without processes like these,” Banda said. 

SGA will continue to host open conversations to get input from the student body, said Zeak Naifeh, associate vice president and dean of students. 

“I think we have some general ideas that make sense in the Student Union space,” he added. “But we’ll definitely be asking students input on, like, what you want to see.”

Student Union: a long time coming

Farhan said the project would not be eligible for any government financial assistance since the building does not include classrooms, so this would be funded solely by the tuition increase along with private donors. 

Naifeh said private donations would allow construction to begin sooner. 

“If we get a donation that then gives us that base money to start the process to design and getting it going, we start sooner than later,” Naifeh said. “So it’s hard to say what the actual (construction) date will be.”

The A&M-San Antonio SGA has been working on bringing a Student Union to the university campus for the past two years.

Representatives of the SGA toured other universities and their student facilities. 

“When I first joined the SGA, in the Fall of 2021, we went to different universities’ student unions,” Farhan said. “I actually went to Texas State and we spoke with the people over there and have been doing some research. It’s great to see voting and getting it out there. We’ve been working on this for almost two and a half years now.” 

SGA along with its advisers hope students continue to practice their right to voice their opinions and concerns so that they know how to best serve them.

“We’re here to support and engage students. So, without their voice, we don’t know what you need. We can make assumptions of what you need as a student but until you tell us, a lot of things can be a little off,” said Neifeh.

For more information about the Student Union, contact the SGA College senator representing the student’s college. The list of College Senator representatives is found on The S.G.A. Chronicles’ newsletter sent to student emails on Nov. 16. 

SGA launched The S.G.A. Chronicles to stay connected and engage with the student body. This newsletter will be emailed to A&M-San Antonio students once a month throughout the fall and spring terms.

About the Authors

Christopher Valdovinos
Christopher Valdovinos is a communications freshman at Texas A&M University-San Antonio minoring in Business Administration. Aside from attending school full-time, he works as a Certified Academic Advisor at his alma mater St. Philip’s College where he earned his associate degree in cybersecurity. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, and looking for ways to refine his photography skills. Upon graduating, he hopes to pursue a career in public relations or photojournalism.

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