Much of the Memorial Union shook with jubilant celebration as the Associated Students of Madison's Student Judiciary read off the fall 2006 Student Council election results Monday night.
The Student Union Initiative passed with 1,691 votes in favor and 915 opposed, along with the Living Wage initiative, which passed by a count of 1,418 votes to 996. However, the results cannot become official until Oct. 30 when the opportunity for appeals is closed.
The Student Judiciary kept an anxious crowd on edge Monday when they entered a closed-door reviewing session to certify the votes — which some students have been awaiting since the first election last spring.
A similar version of the Student Union Initiative was voted down in ASM's spring 2005 elections, and was rejected twice more last semester, though those votes were nullified due to technical errors in the online balloting.
"We're all going through the same feelings of anticipation as we did last year," said Wisconsin Union President and University of Wisconsin senior Shayna Hetzel while pacing outside the closed-session meeting.
Student Election Commission Chair Leah Moe ended the prolonged saga, releasing the numbers in favor of passing the initiative.
Kristina Mueller, vice president of internal relations for the Wisconsin Union Directorate, said she was satisfied with the large margin of victory, despite the fact that only 6.59 percent of the student population voted.
"I was very surprised — it shows that we got our message out," Mueller said. "We talked to a lot of students individually, and they got out and voted."
Hetzel said she is looking forward to the opportunity to have a stake in the future of the Wisconsin Union while preserving the traditions both buildings represent, noting their plans for Union South to be an energy-efficient building.
"It's a very exciting time for our campus — we get to preserve rich and wonderful history like what you see in the Rathskellar, but we also get to innovate for the future and attack global warming," she said. "This is just a momentous occasion for this institution and this campus."
Though the Student Union Initiative passed, not all UW students reveled in the results. Ashok Kumar, a member of Student Labor Action Coalition, which backed the Living Wage initiative, said the implementation of the Student Union Initiative would hurt — rather than help — UW students.
"Two hundred dollars a year for the next 20 years for every student on campus will make college even more inaccessible than it already is," Kumar said.
The vote actually increases student-segregated fees, which are tacked onto all students' tuition bills, by $48 per semester for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years. Starting in fall 2009, though, students will be on the hook for $96 every semester for the next 30 years.
With a little more than 4 percent of the student body voting in support of the construction of a new Union South, a design committee composed of nine students and six non-student appointees will begin searching for an architect for the project.
The planning stage for this is slated for two years, followed by two years of construction in 2008 and 2009, according to Wisconsin Union Director Mark Guthier.
Mueller said she is ecstatic with the results, which will keep students in control of the future of the Wisconsin Union.
"This means students will maintain what happens with the Memorial Union and the new Union South," Mueller said. "We will do everything we can to make sure all students can get involved in the design process."
But Kumar insisted the two union projects are unrelated, and said he would have rather seen the two projects voted on in separate referendums.
And according to Kumar, the best alternative would have been to have an "opt-out" system for the Union South reconstruction so students who did not want to support the new union — for monetary reasons or otherwise — would not be required to.
"Students … would never say making Memorial Union up to code … is something we shouldn't fund," Kumar said. "But what we do have a problem with is tearing down a perfectly good building just to build another one."
Beside any discussion about the outcome of the votes, ASM representative Sol Grosskopf said the election was a mixed bag for the governing body.
"The good side was that we had very few complaints," Grosskopf said. "The bad side was the very poor turnout — by next spring, we should have the computerized ballots and allow students to vote from any computer."
Hetzel said her faith in her fellow UW students was galvanized by the decision to fund the enduring project that she has dedicated so much of her time to.
"I think this sends a resounding message that the union is a vital part of this campus, and that we're all willing to take care of it for future Badgers who come here," she said.
Freshman representatives Steve Lawrence, Bryon Eagon, Jenny Corbett and Supreet Shah were elected to the Student Council. Jenna Wieden, Alexander Schmus and Tony Rodreguiez were voted onto the Student Services Finance Committee.