It’s not fair to charge students for unusable services when Queen’s can afford to foot the bill

matt funk
Photo provided by Matt Funk

It’s become increasingly clear over the years that universities are starting to resemble corporations more than schools, pursuing large profits at the expense of the student experience. However, while corporations must sell at the market price and require an actual demand from consumers, Queen’s not only gets to set the prices for its services but coerces students into paying them—even when these services aren’t usable.

In trying to rationalize these voodoo economics, the University attempts to appeal to students’ and parents’ sympathies, citing budgetary risks and a decline in international student enrollment as reasons for this fall’s maintained fees.

A quick Google search of Queen’s financial statements quells any notion that this unconvincing argument is true.

The University earned well over one billion dollars in revenue in 2019 and operated at a surplus of $105 million. In 2018? A surplus of $75 million. 2017? $88 million. This is all on top of Queen’s existing endowment of 1.1 billion dollars.

The bottom line is that allowing students to opt-out of fees for services like the ARC won’t sink Queen’s—not even close. Not doing so, however, may sink some students. In a year when Gaels are already paying the same rate for classes that are objectively not of the same quality, it’s frankly reprehensible to charge them for amenities they can’t use.

Although the ARC has re-opened, it’s operating with severely lowered functionality and capacity compared to pre-COVID times. Students can only book prescribed zones consisting of one piece of machinery for 50 minutes. This means that sought-after areas like the squat racks need to be booked days in advance.

Some students also complain that being limited to one machine is pretty useless. Who’s going to do leg curls for 50 minutes straight? Oftentimes it makes more sense to do a home workout than book equipment that’s only good for one exercise, and students should be reimbursed if they choose to do so.

While those who returned to Kingston may opt for an outdoor run over the treadmill, those who decided to stay home this semester don’t even have the option of using the ARC.

The decision for the University to charge remote learners for the ARC is not only illogical, but disincentivizes healthy habits. Remote learners who wish to carry out their workout regimen now need to pay for two gym memberships. 

If Queen’s truly cares about the well-being of the student populous, it can give them the flexibility to make their own choices about how best to stay healthy in a pandemic. Sure, it might add a tinge of red to this year’s balance sheet, but there’ll be plenty more nine-figure surpluses to come. 

Matt Funk is a fifth-year Applied Economics student and The Journal’s Sports Editor.

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