During their referendum Feb. 25 and 26, members of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) voted down the proposed Athletics and Recreation fee increase of $120 spread over three years.
One hundred twenty seven voted against the fee increase and 87 voted in favour. Voter turnout was seven per cent.
Due to an SGPS bylaw on student fees categorized as Class A Mandatory, under which the Athletics and Recreation fee falls, fees that fail to pass an increase are automatically reset to $0.
Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said the department is preparing a petition to have the question reinstated in another referendum, which will likely take place in early April. She said the SGPS executive is also considering restoring the fee to its original $81.20. If the fee remains at $0, graduate students won’t be able to use any athletics facilities beginning Sept. 1.
It’s frustrating that a minority of students were allowed to make a decision for the majority because of what appears to be an overall attitude of disinterest among graduate students.
Although it was irresponsible for only seven per cent of graduate students to vote in the referendum, the University needs to take the message they’re sending seriously because their disengagement affects others in the Queen’s community as well.
If the athletics fee isn’t restored, the department may be forced to cut back on some programs, and undergraduate students risk having a further increase tacked onto their fee in the future.
But Athletics and Recreation must also shoulder some of the blame for the fee failure.
Although the department did a good job involving students in the consultation process to set the fee increase, the department has neither marketed the fee increase well outside of the PEC nor geared advertisements specifically at graduate students’ use of the facilities.
It’s disappointing that the University tends to focus on graduate students’ research dollars instead of asking what they want to get out of their graduate experience.
Queen’s should begin looking at the broader issue of how to engage SGPS students in all aspects of student life.
Ultimately, though, it’s up to the graduate students to take initiative in expressing what a majority of them want.
Graduate students already have a Class A vocabulary of apathy, ambivalence and alienation; let’s hope they can find a space to include athletics as well.
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