USG approves student fee hike to help finance Iowa Memorial Union renovations

The Iowa Memorial Union renovations will centralize important services that are currently less accessible, such as the University Counseling Service.


Johnny Jarnagin

Students meet during an Undergraduate Student Government meeting in the Black Box Theatre of the Iowa Memorial Union on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

The University of Iowa’s Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution on Tuesday to increase the student fee from $200 to $240 per student over an academic year to advance renovations in the Iowa Memorial Union. 

After USG’s approval, the renovations and cost still require approval from the UI and state Board of Regents. The architectural selection and detailed design processes are estimated for completion by 2025 if approved.  

“There will be involvement by many campus stakeholders in that process to ensure again, we’ll move that into the detailed program plan design, bid, construct and occupy and so you know, perfect world. We are occupying a renovated IMU with a beautiful wellbeing center by mid-2025.” 

Eric Rossow, vice president of student life senior advisor, associate vice president, and dean of students, said renovating the existing space in the IMU is less costly than building a new facility. 

“So for phase one of the project, that’s estimated about $63.7 million to renovate about 96,345 square feet,” Rossow said at the meeting. 

Rossow said the UI plans to renovate where the current Iowa House Hotel is housed on the first floor of the IMU. 

“Some of the areas we’re really talking about are would be where the River Room is and up throughout the hotel,” he said. “That would be phase one of the project.”

Rossow said maintenance on many projects at the UI had to be deferred because of extensive damage caused by the 2008 flood. 

While spaces such as the IMU’s ground floor could be used in 2015, they couldn’t be remodeled. Now that regulations have shifted, Rossow and planners are trying to formulate plans for renovations.  

“Then I believe in September of [2021] a kind of moratorium was lifted from FEMA and we are now able to think about ways to modify the building and move forward on that,” Rossow said. 

With the $240 fee, Rossow said the UI could prioritize mental health and move the UI’s University Counseling Service into the building. UCS’s main facility is currently housed on the west side of campus.  

The IMU renovations also include updates to food services areas, including the River Room Cafe and Union Station Food Court. 

“One of the plans is to open up the corridor from the River Room to Hubbard Commons,” he said. “Think about all the ways that we can then activate the outdoors and all the ways that we can connect to the river and all the ways that we can utilize the terrace.”

An architect has not been chosen for the project yet, Rossow said, and the increased fee won’t take effect until construction begins. 

“This fee will not change this year,” Rossow said. “This fee will stay standard. If there’s a different construction project that comes up, you’ll go through the same process as this.”

Angela Ibrahim-Olin, assistant dean and director of student accountability said some additions to the building are only possible with the raised fee, including updates to the single-user restroom in the IMU.

“There’s exactly one that’s up on the third floor and it’s awkward to go up there in the middle of the day. And so having that in the space, I think it’s just really going to kind of catapult us into the 21st century,” Ibrahim-Olin said.

The USG resolution was co-written by Sen. Zach Springer and Sen. Torie Thayer.

“This is a resolution basically showing our support for the hybrid renovation. It’s worth the increase on the semester each from $100 to $120,” Springer said. 

Sen. Emma Speer supported the legislation. 

“I think it’s very important that we invest in the future right as future students make this investment for themselves. I’ve been to UCS and to the Westlawn area and it is very, very inaccessible,” Speer said. “So making that central on campus will be really beneficial.”

USG President Patrick Johnson spoke on the question of accessibility regarding the renovations. 

“Because this is really student-centered, so once they get an architect into the design process, I think that’s going to be one of the very top priorities is making sure that every single student can access the space,” Johnson said. 

A similar resolution will be discussed at the Graduate and Professional Student Government meeting next week. If approved, a joint USG-GPSG written letter will be sent to the regents, Johnson said.