About the Student Union Initiative

The Student Union Initiative was the student-led campaign to fund improvements to the Wisconsin Union facilities, which include Memorial Union and Union South. The main goal of the Initiative was to preserve the past at Memorial Union through restoration and expansion and build the future at Union South. 

University of Wisconsin-Madison students voted “yes” to an initiative that will preserve the stature of Memorial Union while significantly upgrade and renovate the nearly 80-year-old building and build a new “green” student union on the current site of Union South. According the paper ballot counted by Associate Students of Madison Student Election Commission, the Initiative passed with a near 2-1 margin.

 The project is supported by student segregated fees, private donations and other sources.

Click here to start typing your text

1900s campaign for Memorial Union 

2006 campaign for Memorial Union and Union South 


Below is the exact wording for the Student Union Initiative. If you support the renovation of Memorial Union and the rebuilding of Union South, vote YES October 18-19.


The Wisconsin Union is initiating efforts to renovate Memorial Union and construct a new building to replace Union South.  The student led process has included a campus-wide student email survey, student committees, focus groups and open forums. Continuing student input is vital to the planning and design process and will continue to be incorporated as the design process becomes more detailed.  To examine plan details so far, click on this link:  www.unionvote.wisc.edu

The Memorial Union restoration and upgrade will preserve the historic nature of this campus icon built in the 1920s. Improvements will include:

  • substantially improving ADA accessibility for people of all abilities
  • addressing safety issues by bringing the building up to code (e.g. sprinkler and fire alarm systems)
  • renovating Hoofer spaces and improving the Mendota lakefront without violating the natural habitat
  • upgrading communication technology
  • creating expanded student lounge/coffee house space

The new union building on the current south campus site will replace an outdated and inefficient facility with an enduring, sustainable "green" building, which incorporates concepts for universal accessibility (e.g. ramps, elevators, restrooms).  Additionally, the new facility will provide:

  • expanded student lounge space
  • activity and programming spaces
  • a pub
  • coffeehouse
  • recreation spaces
  • outdoor campus green space
  • the latest communication technology.

This project will be funded by multiple sources:

  • An additional segregated fee not to exceed $96 per student per semester. The segregated fee portion of this project budget funds the new south campus Union and the restoration of the Theater wing of Memorial Union. The fee is expected to be assessed beginning Fall 2007 and construction is expected to begin in the following year, 2008. This segregated fee will be terminated at the end of 30 years.
  • Private donations. Student support will create strong momentum for private fundraising.
  • Revenue generated by (expanded) Union services.
  • State and Federal funds for historic structures will also be requested to fund the project
The amount of the segregated fee may be reduced based on the level of donor, State and Federal support.

Funding Sources

  • $48 per semester for the first two years following the plan’s implication. Although the actual initiative will not state this because we're unable to change the wording, the Union has made this promise.
  • $96 per semester after the first two years for up to 30 years. You will never pay more than $96 a semester for construction.
  • Student fees are only covering up to 58% of construction costs. The rest of the money will be provided by the Union operating revenue and through private donations.

This payment schedule is slightly staggered so that students will pay less during the first few years during the design phase.

Current estimate of total costs for entire project:

  • Memorial Union: $80 million
  • South Campus Union: $67 million


Additional financial notes:

  • The cost of making the necessary changes to renovate Union South would actually cost more than rebuilding a new and improved building
  • The updates on Memorial Union are actually more expensive than those for building a new south campus union, as it needs to retain its status as a historically-preserved State landmark.

Information from ASM on segregated fees


How does UW-Madison stack up against other UW System campuses concerning segregated fees toward Union operations and construction costs?
For the $96/semester construction cost, which would be implemented after two years of $48/semester fees, UW-Madison ranks about midway for construction cost. For seg fees for Union operations, we are one of the lowest. The Student Union Initiative increase would put UW-Madison in about the middle of the pack.




Make a Free Website with Yola.