Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Campus Corner: Update on Queen's proposed athletics fee increase

Next Monday's going to be a very significant moment in the future of Queen's athletics. That's the date of the AMS (Alma Mater Society, the undergraduate student government) general meeting, which takes place in Ban Righ Hall at 8 p.m. All current students have a vote at the meeting. The key motion to be addressed is a $120 increase to the current athletics fee of $131.75, spread out over several years (you can see the details on the Queen's site here, along with some very interesting budgeting data). Steep university budget cuts mean that the athletics department is facing some challenging times financially and may have to drastically alter their programs if they don't get this increase. Anyway, an interesting foreshadowing of what may go down at the AGM occured March 1 at a special AMS Assembly meeting to consider endorsing the fee increase and sending it to the general meeting for further ratification. I got the bare-bones details on the meeting in last week's Journal but figured I'd provide a little more information and context on it here thanks to the lesser space constraints. My article follows; I'll weigh in with my own thoughts on the matter as the AGM gets closer.

Athletics fee increase sent to AGM

By Andrew Bucholtz
Sports Editor
At a special meeting on March 1, AMS Assembly voted to put a motion to increase the annual Athletics and Recreation fee on the agenda for the AMS annual general meeting on March 16. The motion proposes an increase of $120 spread out over several years. The final schedule of proposed fee increases differs from the original plan put forward by Athletics at the February 11 AMS Assembly, which proposed a $50 increase in 2009-10, an additional $40 increase in 2011-12 and a further $30 in 2012-13 with the fee to be indexed to inflation thereafter. The new schedule proposes a $35 increase in 2009-10, with a $40 increase to follow in 2011-12, and a $45 increase in 2012-13 before indexing the fee to inflation in 2013-2014.
Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said the change was due to feedback from the department’s meetings with the PHESA and ComSoc assemblies, which proposed that shifting the larger increases to later years would be fairer to the students graduating next year who would only have one year of access to the Queen’s Centre facilities. Dal Cin said the revised schedule would force the department to run a deficit for one more year than the original plan would have, but the University has agreed to let the department run that deficit. Over 50 student-athletes and coaches attended the meeting to show their support for the fee.
Dal Cin said she was thankful for the support Assembly showed for Queen’s athletics and recreation programs.
“We’re grateful for both the support and the comments about the process,” she said. “The fact that so many people think supporting athletics and recreation is important is tremendous and is tremendous for our confidence.”
Dal Cin said the department plans further campaigns to increase awareness of the proposed increase and what the funds would be used for before the AGM.
“We still have more education to do,” she said. “We really felt people needed to be informed and engaged.”
Dal Cin said the change was due to feedback from student leaders.
“That was a suggestion that came out of both the ComSoc meeting and the meeting with PHESA,” she said. “It really spoke to an understanding of when the services would come on line and a certain degree of fairness that people who are graduating next year wouldn’t have had the benefit of what the Queen’s Centre can bring and all the programs and services for their previous three years.”
Dal Cin said the department made the change because they wanted to address student concerns about the fee increase.
“It was a great suggestion and we were happily able to accommodate it,” she said. “I think that helped in terms of shaping our process and people understanding that we were looking for input and prepared to accept it once we received it.”
CESA president Todd Ormiston said the increase is necessary thanks to the budget pressures faced by the athletics department.
“I think unfortunately this fee is needed,” he said. “This fee needs to happen for athletics to survive and I think we all recognize that.”
Ormiston said he doesn’t want the University to cut their funding to athletics further, though, as that would force students to bear even more of the load.
“It’s time for us to stop paying backdoor tuition fees,” he said.
Dal Cin said she’s hopeful the University will continue to support the department.
“We will do our best to make sure that the University does its part for Athletics and Recreation,” she said.
EngSoc president Jordan Black said the increase is needed to allow students to take full advantage of the new Queen’s Centre facilities for both athletics and recreation programs.
“It’s really important that we continue to provide the resources or improve the resources to both of these programs,” he said. “With all these new facilities coming in the form of the Queen’s Centre, it would be a shame to not operate them at their full capacity.”
Black said the strong student support shown for the fee increase in both the winter referendum and further polling conducted by Athletics and Recreation made it important for Assembly to send the motion to the AGM.
“Students are making a point of saying that they support this,” he said.
Medical students’ representative John Doan brought forward an amendment to approve only the first year’s fee increase and send the other increases to a referendum. Doan said his constituents don’t support a fee increase, as many of them don’t often use athletics facilities.
“In general, they are somewhat opposed to the motion, and as their representative, so am I,” he said.
Done said his constituents were also concerned that the fee was going to the AGM instead of a campus-wide referendum. He brought forward an amendment to send the first increase, of $35 for the 2009-2010 school year, to the AGM and bring the other proposed increases to referendum.
Dal Cin said the funding uncertainty that would arise from Done’s amendment would put the athletics department in a deficit position.
“If we were to adopt that motion, we would never be able to get out of that deficit,” she said.
Chair of the AMS Board of Directors Kaitlyn Young spoke against the amendment. She said she wasn’t concerned about sending the fee to the AGM instead of a referendum thanks to its support among students.
“We have student support for this and that’s what we’d be looking for in a referendum,” she said.
Young said the increase is essential to ensure stability in the athletics budget.
“Ever since I’ve been here at Queen’s, there’s been uncertainty around the athletics program,” she said. “I think the way the motion is worded without the amendment is perfect to give athletics some stability.”
Done’s amendment was voted down and the motion to send the fee to the AGM was passed with only one vote against.

No comments:

Post a Comment