WSU’s campaign to raise fees has a new name and logo — but it could be a tough sell

Wichita State University’s campaign to raise student fees for campus infrastructure has a new name and logo:

Shock the Future.

Tracee Friess, director of communication for WSU’s office of research and technology transfer, said the “student-created, student-led campaign” will launch in January and a referendum to raise fees will be put to a student vote in March.

WSU announced last month that it wants to raise student fees to finance about $38 million worth of campus upgrades, including part of a new W. Frank Barton School of Business on its Innovation Campus.

The proposal calls for doubling the campus infrastructure fee for all students, from $6 to $12 per credit hour, for at least 20 years.

It could be a tough sell, coming a year after WSU raised fees $95 per semester to build a new YMCA on campus. Hundreds of students signed a petition against that fee, saying the university rushed the idea through without proper regard for student concerns.

A committee of about 30 students and key administrators decided to call the new campaign “Shock the Future,” Friess said, “reflecting the positive changes these improvements will have on future Shockers for years to come.”

Anand Desai, dean of the business school, said the proposed $50 million Woolsey Hall will house the new Barton School, but that “students from across campus will be able to use the facilities that we have.”

He noted a planned 300-seat auditorium, study rooms, conference rooms and a coffee and snack bar in the building. It would be located on the Innovation Campus, east of WSU’s main campus.

“When classrooms are not used by the business faculty, those classrooms will certainly be available to professors across campus,” Desai said.

During a committee meeting Thursday, a dozen students met with several administrators, including Teri Hall, vice president of student affairs. They discussed marketing strategies for the campaign, which will include messages from current students about why they plan to vote in favor of the fee increase.

“It’s kind of like paying taxes for roads and stuff. It’s the same thing, for the greater good,” said Hannah Foster, a senior majoring in graphic design and interning in WSU’s office of strategic communication.

“I’m just thinking about the people that are coming here after me — my nieces, my nephews, my kids someday. . . . I just think Wichita State’s such a great place, and continuing to grow it and expand it is really important.”

Other students on the committee said they haven’t decided whether they support the plan.

“It’s an interesting proposal. I think there’s some merit to it, and I’m glad they’re talking to students,” said Vijay Matheswaran, a graduate student in engineering. “Whether I’m on board or not is something I’m going to decide.”

The plan calls for WSU to issue $38 million in bonds — $20 million for the new business school and $18 million for other campus renovations. Proposed improvements include centralizing student services in Clinton Hall, the current home of the business school; updating classrooms and theater space in Wilner Auditoritum; and adding labs in Hubbard Hall.

An average undergraduate student taking 15 credit hours at WSU currently pays about $782 per semester in student fees, not including tuition. The proposed increase would raise that by $90 per semester.

The last referendum to raise fees was in 2010, when students narrowly approved a $32 million improvement to the Rhatigan Student Center. That increase raised student fees by about $6 a semester for 20 years.

“Were it not for those students who self-imposed a credit-hour fee to build the Rhatigan Student Center, our students today would not be enjoying this wonderful facility,” said Desai, the business dean.

Supporters plan to promote the new campaign online and on social media using the hashtags #ShockTheFuture and #LeaveYourLegacy.

“The more we educate people I think it will get better, but right now a lot of people are just talking about how the student fees are going to be raised,” said Foster, the graphic design major who supports the proposal.

“A big part of what we’re doing here is making sure people understand what they’re voting for and that it’s going to benefit absolutely everyone, no matter who you are,” she said. “If you’re not directly benefiting, maybe you’ll be benefited by the flood of people that are going to come here from how great the institution will be eventually.”