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GSU students to vote on activity fees
Survey reveals support for stadium expansion; FBS opinions mixed
GSU.3D EagleHead

About the survey
    The 100 Georgia Southern University students who participated in the survey were selected at random, at locations across campus. They were surveyed either inside or outside of the following locations: the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Information Technology, ROTC, the Carroll Building, Henderson Library, Carruth Building, Williams Center, Foy Building, Russell Student Union, University Store and the Georgia Southern practice fields.
    While the survey was given at random, effort was made to form a poll with participants diverse in age, race and gender.
    Because student-athletes make up a considerable portion of the student body, and because the bulk of the vote directly impacts them, five students who are either athletes or involved in athletics management were surveyed.
    Many students surveyed offered comments of varying opinions, but a majority of the negative commenters wished to remain anonymous and their comments were not included in this report.

    On Tuesday, Georgia Southern University students will cast votes that could change the course of the institution forever.
    The voting, which will run through Thursday, will determine whether three new, per-semester fees will be assessed to the roughly 16,000 fee-paying students at GSU.
    The first is a $25 fee that would fund the construction of 6,200 new seats at Paulson Stadium, the university’s football venue. The second, a $75 fee, would only go into effect if Georgia Southern is invited into a Football Bowl Subdivision athletic conference. The final vote is for a proposed fee of $10 to fund GSU’s sustainability efforts.
    “So many things these students vote on, especially these sorts of things, may not necessarily impact them today, but are going to have a huge impact on the university, for the rest of time,” University President Brooks Keel said. “When they graduate and come back as alumni, they’ll be able to appreciate what they did back then.”
    Some students agree with Keel.
“I think I need to donate to help make this school better,” said GSU senior Brianna Dumas, who was one of 100 Georgia Southern students who participated in a survey, conducted by the Statesboro Herald, about the vote. “This is our time to leave a legacy.”

SUBHEAD: Stadium expansion
    If Georgia Southern students vote yes on the proposed athletic facility expansion fee, construction would likely begin after the conclusion of the 2012 football season, although no official date has been announced.
    The fee would cover construction costs of nearly $9 million to build 7,000 new seats at Paulson Stadium. The fee would be assessed each semester until the project is fully funded. The fee would be in effect for roughly 20 years, according to Georgia Southern’s website.
The lower level of the north stands would be widened with an additional 3,000 seats, and an upper deck would be constructed, adding another 4,000 seats.
    A walkway would be created at the lower level, displacing roughly 800 seats, so a net gain of 6,200 seats would be added to the facility. With seating capacity currently listed at 14,444, Paulson Stadium would eclipse 20,000 seats.
    “A vote yes gives us a bigger Paulson Stadium. It gets us more seats,” Georgia Southern head football coach Jeff Monken said. “Right now there’s 14,400 seats or so, but we’ve averaged, in the last two years, over 19,000 fans per game. We had 20,000-plus for the opener (against Jacksonville), and that’s a lot of people in the stadium without a seat.”
    Paulson Stadium also plays host to non-sporting events. The 2012 spring commencement ceremony had an estimated attendance of 23,000. National musical acts, most recently The Fray and The Band Perry, perform regularly at the venue.
    Currently, GSU students’ access to sporting events is included in their athletic fees. There are 4,000 reserved student seats, according to GSU sports information director Barrett Gilham, meaning only roughly 25 percent of fee-paying students have access to a seat at football games.
    In the Herald’s 100-student survey, 66 said they planned to vote yes to stadium expansion, 23 said they would vote against it, and 11 either were unaware there was a vote or said they were going to choose not to vote.

    If the students pass the proposed FBS Athletic Operations Fee, $75 per semester will be used to “cover scholarship costs and additional athletics operating expenses related to the move to the FBS level and to a new conference,” according to GSU’s web site.
    The fee will not be assessed unless GSU receives and accepts an invitation from an FBS conference.
    “It’s a vote of confidence from our student body that says, ‘We will be supportive of that move if Georgia Southern decided it was best for our athletic program.’ Our athletic program is an extension of this university,” Monken said. “It’s our duty to represent this university the way it’s represented in everything else it does. We want to have a national reputation as a university, and we need to make sure we’re doing the things as an athletic department to add to that reputation. Certainly playing football at the highest level, at the FBS level, it’s recognizable, the things it does for other schools.”
    Monken mentioned recent wins by Louisiana Monroe and Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt Conference, over Arkansas and Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference.
    “It doesn’t mean we have to say yes if we’re invited,” Monken added, “but we can’t say yes if we’re invited right now, unless we get the backing of our students.”
    The FBS fee was the most contested in the Herald’s survey. Of 100 students, 50 were in favor. There were 39 students who said they were going to vote against the fee, and 11 who either were unaware of the vote or said they were not going to vote.
    “I don’t think it’s the right time yet,” said GSU senior Nycholas Maldonado-Taylor, who said he would vote yes to the stadium expansion and sustainability fees.
“I’ve heard a lot of people pushing to not vote for the potential FBS conference,” sophomore Michael Grimes said. “Most of the arguments say that we will be a small fish in a big pond and that it is not a good move. I agree that for some time we will be a small fish but over time, maybe, we will become bigger and better. Isn’t that how GSU came into being? We started small, and now we are a university.”
    Keel said he feels a move to the FBS would generate more national exposure for Georgia Southern.
    “The athletic fee that will help us move to the FBS, that’s going to position us to take our football program to the next level … to a national level and at the highest level possible,” he said. “I think that would do a tremendous amount for the reputation of the university, and get the word out across this country just how great Georgia Southern is.”

    The final proposed fee to be put to a vote will be a $10 fee to contribute to the university’s sustainability efforts.
    Keel said that proposal came from student representatives.
    “It’s something the students themselves brought forward. Our students these days are very concerned about the environment and the sustainability of the environment we have,” he said. “Those funds will provide resources and educational opportunities to help determine how this campus becomes more environmentally sensitive.”
    The fee would be used for “retro-fitting buildings, low-flow shower heads, re-lamping, etc., to make the university more water- and energy-efficient. It will also aid in promotional efforts to encourage a green lifestyle all across campus such as advertisements reminding students, faculty and staff to turn off lights and running water when not in use,” according to Georgia Southern’s website.
    In the Herald’s survey, 74 students said they would vote for the proposed fee, and 15 said they would vote against it. The remaining 11 were unaware of the vote or said they were not going to participate.
    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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