SGPS rejects athletics fee increase

$120 fee increase shot down; SGPS athletics fee down to $0

Director of Recreation and Athletics Leslie Dal Cin says she was surprised SGPS students voted down the proposed Athletics and Recreation fee increase of $120 spread over three years.
Director of Recreation and Athletics Leslie Dal Cin says she was surprised SGPS students voted down the proposed Athletics and Recreation fee increase of $120 spread over three years.

Members of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students rejected the proposed Athletics and Recreation fee increase of $120 spread over three years in a referendum on Feb. 25 and 26. The rejection means the current athletics fee for SGPS members disappears as well.

Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said if the fee remains at $0, graduate students will be unable to use athletics facilities beginning Sept. 1.

“We have said to the SGPS that if their fee resets to $0, then unfortunately graduate and professional students will not be provided with any access to programs and services in the facilities in the Queen’s Centre,” she said.

Dal Cin told the Journal she was disappointed to have the fee increase fail, especially with such a low voter turnout.

“It’s really unfortunate that 200 people are going to remove any sort of access and privileges for 3,600,” she said.

127 voters cast their votes against the fee, while 87 were in favour. Voter turnout was seven per cent.

The department is working with groups of graduate students who are preparing a petition to hold another referendum on the topic, Dal Cin said. She said the department is focusing on uniting diverse groups that support the fee increase, providing them with information about the proposed increase and answering their questions.

“We are working with several student groups who are mobilizing,” she said. “What we’re doing is putting all the student groups together.”

Dal Cin said the department wasn’t expecting the fee increase to fail.

“We were surprised by the result,” she said.

Dal Cin said she thinks there will be support among graduate students to reinstate at least a partial athletics fee so they can have access to Queen’s facilities.

“I think our next step is to communicate more broadly with the graduate and professional students to make them aware of that situation,” she said. “I think they will probably have an opinion on that and take action themselves.”

Dal Cin said she wants to consult with the SGPS executive about the procedures in place to challenge the referendum results due to low voter turnout.

“I think we need more discussion with the SGPS, one, so we can understand their policies, and two, to understand what their next steps are,” she said. “We’ll move forward from there.”

Dal Cin told AMS Assembly on Sunday the SGPS is reviewing the results and considering restoring the fee to $81.20, below its original level of $131.75.

Dal Cin said if the SGPS adopts a fee lower than the current $131.75, their members will receive reduced access to Athletics and Recreation facilities.

“If it resets to $81.20, we have advised them that their programs and services will dramatically alter,” she said. “Basically, we’d only allow them access into the facility for casual recreation.”

Graduate students would still be permitted to participate in other athletics programs, Dal Cin said, but they would have to pay more on a per-use basis than if they accepted a universal fee.

“It would result in graduate students having to pay a heck of a lot more for services.”

Dal Cin said Athletics has received support from groups of graduate students.

“We’ve already seen communications from several of the professional societies indicating that they’re unhappy with the outcome,” she said.

SGPS President Jeff Welsh said the policy that resets fees that are rejected to $0 is currently under review.

“The bylaw is being reviewed by our Speaker and the Bylaw and Policy Committee, he told the Journal via e-mail. “Bylaws can only be changed at our AGM after a first reading at Council.”

The SGPS bylaw in question relates to student fees categorized as Class A Mandatory, Welsh said, and it’s this policy that’s currently under assessment.

“It’s just a quirk of the bylaws under Class A fees and so that’s what’s under review.”

Welsh said any effort by Dal Cin to reinstate the fee will have to await the results of another referendum, which will probably take place in early April.

“Basically she has to wait, because as it stands now, we have to abide by current bylaws.”

Welsh said he’s received feedback about the referendum both from his constituents and from Athletics and Recreation.

“Several members have e-mailed and expressed concern about the potential loss of access to A&R programs and services,” he said. “Athletics is mainly concerned about meeting deadlines for their budgeting process.”

Welsh said he thinks the volume of the increase contributed to its rejection.

“The total proposed increase would have nearly doubled the fee. Even for students who are aware of the current budget situation at Queen’s, that appears to be a shockingly high increase. We did make every effort to get information out to our members, although that was hampered by the fact that we only received the proposed increases from Athletics one week before the ballot.

“However, given that a much smaller portion of SGPS members take part in intramurals, and literally only a handful in inter-university sports–which alone accounts for half the A&R budget–there is much less appetite among SGPS members for such a hefty fee. That being said, I’m not convinced all of those who voted against it were fully aware of the potential loss of access to A&R services.”

A petition to hold another referendum on the topics is currently being prepared, Welsh said.

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