Print Edition: March 21, 2012
“A missed opportunity, a gap at this institution that other universities are doing,” is how Athletics Director Chris Bertram described the upcoming Athletics and Campus Rec Fee referendum should it not pass. “We’d just be who we are, and is that good enough?”
A low turnout did nothing to dissuade the motivated Bertram along with Susan Francis from Student Life, who hosted an information session regarding the proposed campus recreation fee and referendum ahead of the March 19 to 21 voting period. The cost to students, the potential benefits, and what to do about those who don’t or won’t care were all topics up for discussion.
Bertram understood that asking students if they approve introducing a new fee is “a tough sell” and hoped to dispel misinformation, pointing out that as Continuing Studies courses don’t count for university credits, they would not have to pay the fee. For International students, Bertram said that should the fee be introduced, it would be at the domestic rate, and that the Winter 2013 semester would be when the increase would take effect.
Despite these assurances, newly-elected SUS VP east representative Shane Potter pointed out that those promises were not in official writing, and not part of the wording of the question being posed to students.
The question of whether or not students can take another fee increase remained. Many UFV students struggle to pay their current tuition and fees even though the rates are lower than the national average. Bertram noted that the three per cent cut was not a number landed on lightly. Many other institutions with similarly competitive sports teams, such as the University of British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University and Vancouver Island University have similarly titled, higher fees, some of which were not as openly presented to students. Four per cent was found to be the number on the lowest end of the scale of comparable examples, and so this proposed fee was positioned to be as small as possible.
There is an apathy that surrounds UFV and this is an issue both in terms of the vote (the five per cent turnout threshold the vote must pass is hardly a given) and the overall student body (UFV is an institution where degrees, not activities and interaction, are the main, if not only, pursuit). Bertram and everyone hoping to pass this referendum and promote campus recreation are trying to combat this apathy and attract the interest of students. Questions of how any additions, as a result of the influx of funding, would relate to or tangibly benefit many students uninterested in sports came up repeatedly, but Bertram illustrated the situation as one where the status quo can only result in disinterest. The additions have the potential to create opportunities for involvement and build school spirit.
“We’re not saying this is a cure-all for apathy, we’re saying it’s one way we can deal with it,” Bertram said.
As for the immediate benefits, Bertram stated that “[t]here are a lot more problems than those four teams,” (the volleyball, golf, and rowing teams were on the brink of elimination this past year), but that if the referendum passes, that particular issue could be “immediately solved,” and on the financial side the athletics department could be seen operating without running a deficit.
Francis mentioned that in order to get the best representation of student opinion, every effort would be made to spread information on the vote during the voting period. Laptops, additional flyers, and more of an on-campus presence would supplement the online information that has been the main source for the referendum’s information so far.
Asked how things would proceed should the fee be approved by student voters, Bertram elaborated on how a contract would need to be drawn up and a meeting between SUS president Carlos Vidal and UFV president Mark Evered would happen to discuss the formation of a Discretionary Fund Committee, which would decide on the allocation of 50 per cent of the income from the new fee. Twenty-five per cent is earmarked each for varsity athletics and campus recreational activities. Should things go smoothly for Bertram and others, the Athletics and Campus Rec Fee would take effect in the fall.