Athletics fee increase indeterminate

Referendum question receives 72 per cent support; department to take proposal to AGM

Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin says the department needs more funding to maintain their programs.
Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin says the department needs more funding to maintain their programs.

Seventy-two per cent of students voted in favour of increasing the Athletics and Recreation fee on the Jan. 27-28 AMS referendum, while 89 per cent of voting students said Athletics and Recreation is a valuable part of the Queen’s experience.

Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said she was happy with the results.

“We feel very gratified that people feel that Athletics and Recreation programs are relevant to their Queen’s experience, and secondly that people value our programs and services enough that they would consider increasing their support for them,” she said Monday.

The current fee is $131.75, which ranks 10th amongst Ontario universities. Dal Cin said the department has to do further consultation with students before coming up with a proposed increase. She said the department plans intensive discussions with student groups on what athletics and recreation services they value and how much of a fee increase they would be willing to support.

“Following out of the information that we have collected today, I have meetings with a number of different societies; EngSoc, ComSoc, ASUS, PHESA,” she said. “The plebiscite question gave us good information, the surveys gave us good information, but we still need information from a variety of student groups that we’re meeting with over the next 10 days to really hone in and identify which programs and services they value the most. At that point I think we’ll be in a better position to understand what the fee structure needs to look like.”

Last year’s athletics review suggested raising the fee to one of the top five in Ontario. The highest fee is the University of Toronto’s $248 fee, and the fifth-highest is the University of Waterloo’s $166 fee.

Dal Cin said the recommendation will be taken into consideration, but that student feedback on what programs should be offered and how high the fee should be is more important.

Dal Cin said the department is facing the same budget cuts as every other facet of the university.

“Dean of Student Affairs departments are being asked to reduce their budget by 18 per cent over the next three years,” she said.

The biggest problem is that maintaining the same level of service has gotten more expensive since the fee was last raised in 1997, Dal Cin said.

“The reality is our programs have been running at a deficit for the past five years,” she said. “It isn’t all of a sudden we’re in a deficit situation.”

Dal Cin said the University’s cancellation of fall Homecoming will cost the department the equivalent of two fall sports.

Dal Cin said she understands that some students are upset by the plan to take the proposal for a fee increase to the AMS annual general meeting on Mar. 8 instead of to a referendum, given the outcry over the Queen’s Centre fee going through that process. She said the student groups her department consulted with said going to referendum and then the AGM was the best plan, as it allowed for discussion after seeing the level of support for a fee increase.

“We were very mindful of the way students felt about the Queen’s Centre fee and the fact that it went to AGM and we asked each one of those groups, all of the groups that we met and asked for their opinion, on how to manage that situation,” she said. “The plebiscite question we did in the AMS referendum was a non-binding question. The reason we chose to go with that methodology was we felt we needed to have a dialogue with the students at a much greater level than what we could do within the AMS referendum rules.”

Dal Cin said the department felt increased dialogue was more important than criticisms over transparency, which she doesn’t feel are justified due to every student’s ability to vote at an AGM.

“I know there was some confusion or comment regarding why would we go to the AGM, saying that’s not a transparent method, but given that every student has the right to vote at the AGM and given the fact that we felt we really needed to do a better job of educating people about what their programs would look like if we did have an unsuccessful referendum, we felt that the more dialogue we could have with student groups, the better,” she said. “The process of collecting the information continues, but it’s all based on having dialogue with the widest possible audience, leading to the fact that we have to put one question in front of the AMS assembly for approval to go on to the AGM on March 8.”

Dal Cin said the department’s facing a time crunch, but they should be able to finish their consultations and have a proposal ready for the AGM.

“Reading week doesn’t help us, but that’s just the reality of the situation,” she said. “Faced with the alternative, we just have to get it done. There is no alternative.”

Athletics by the numbers

Currently, the University contributes $2,574,971 to the department’s budget. That number is expected to drop to $2,232,138 next year and $2,154,276 in the following year. The current student fee brings in $2,110,499 and self-generated revenue accounts for the remaining $1,588,219 of the department’s budget. Expenses are also projected to rise, with this year’s costs of $6,419,850 for recreation programs, interuniversity sport programs and other costs expected to jump to $7,135,805. If the student fee remains at the current level and only rises at the inflation adjustment of two per cent, the department will likely lose $1,181,163 next year.

—Andrew Bucholtz

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