Pavilion expansion

by Andrew Edwards

Horizon Reporter

Imagine a row of brand-new exercise bikes, stair steppers and weight machines next to a plush lounge surrounded by walls of floor to ceiling windows.  Add in large, open multi-purpose rooms for clubs and office space for teachers, and you have the proposed expansion to the Pavilion at Whatcom Community College.

If the expansion is approved by the board of trustees, who monitor the college’s budget, a fee of around five to seven dollars per credit could be added to the cost of tuition in order to fund the project.  This would result in an annual increase of $180-$252 for the average student who takes 12 credits each quarter.

Kris Baier, the director for student life and athletics, said the expansion would replace the facilities currently available at the Pavilion and add much-needed space for clubs and athletics, as well as providing students with more space to study and relax between classes.

Last quarter the council conducted a week-long survey to gauge opinions on using the student fund to expand the Pavilion.

The results showed that about 80 percent of students were in favor of using the fund while 20 percent were opposed.  While most supported the idea, the responses left in the comments section show a variety of concerns.

Respondents opposed to the expansion mainly cited the cost as being too high with statements such as “$10m goes a long way.  I think more students would benefit from alternate allocations of those funds, why not re-open the day care?”

Several surveys marked in favor of using the fund expressed similar concerns.  One such survey read “I would also hope for responsible use of funds.  I do wonder if there is a better use of the fund like increased student services and financial aid,” while another said “only if it doesn’t increase tuition.”

Information printed on the back of these surveys stated that the expansion could be paid for with money from the student savings account and would not affect tuition.

John Laigaie, executive vice president of the student council, said that if students asked about a tuition increase, they were informed that it was a possibility.  At the time of the survey, the council did not know that fees would be necessary to pay for the project, he said.

“We did the best that we could with the knowledge we had when we put out the survey,” said public relations coordinator Kelsey Rowlson, adding that “nothing is close to final.”

“A building like this on campus would be incredibly positive for all students,” said Baier.  The Pavilion was originally built for a much smaller student body and is totally inadequate for Whatcom’s current population, he said.

While this project is still in the early planning stages, the current design is expected to cost around $12 million, said Nate Langstraat, the vice president for administrative services.

“It’s a big number for many students to wrap their heads around,” said Langstraat.  There are still many details to work out before any construction could begin, he said, and the current projected cost “includes everything on the wish list,” and is subject to change.

The student council has a balance of around $1.2 million in the student fund which it plans to use for preliminary planning and design costs.  The college has applied for a state-backed loan to cover the remaining expenses.  If the loan is approved, it would be paid back with the fees added to tuition.

The student council will hold a public forum on May 22 to see if views about expanding the Pavilion have changed.  Shawn Chantaboune, student council chair of budget and finances said that the fees could have a major effect on opinions, since “that can be a game changer in peoples’ tuition.”

“It will be up to students how this moves forward,” said Baier.  “It will be up to students.”

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