After long debate, athletics operations gets $1.01 GAF increase


Brianna Schreurs, Editor-in-Chief

After putting amendments on amendments, whipping out calculators and a sincere debate, Students’ Association passed the four-year General Activity Fee (GAF) strategic plan after almost four hours of deliberation during its Jan. 28 meeting.

The plan passed with a 24-4 vote. Sen. Josh Longtin, Sen. Sydney Swenson, Sen. Jennifer Tonak and Sen. Carter Hunter voted against the plan.

The debate surrounded the athletics operations fee for FY 2021. When the debate started, athletics would be getting 51 cents per credit hour. In the end, SA moved to change the fee to be $1.01 per credit hour in FY 2021. The GAF strategic plan final draft can be found here.

Determining the total

SA didn’t come to this conclusion easily. Almost immediately after opening discussion on GAF, Sen. Caleb Vukovich moved to make an amendment on the FY 2021 athletics operations fee to change it to $2.47 per credit hour, which was the original total when the strategic plan was proposed on Jan. 14.

“If we are trying to fix a deficit, why would we leave a deficit?” Sen. Vukovich, who voted in favor of the plan, said.

Then, Government Affairs Chair Cole McDougall moved to amend the amendment to make the fee $1 per credit hour. While in a 15-10 vote the total was substituted to $1, the amendment failed 16-12.

This began a long line of amendments. Sen. Vukovich continued to make two amendments changing the number to $2 per credit hour and $1.75 per credit hour. Government Affairs Chair McDougall struck back again by amending Sen. Vukovich’s amendment again, this time he substituted the total to 75 cents per credit hour. McDougall’s amendment on the amendment passed 18-10.

“I would like to make an amendment on the amendment, amen,” Sen. Amber Alvey said.

She proposed a $1.01 per credit hour for FY 2021 in this amendment.

“I do think there is a decent amount of people in this room that are pretty comfortable with that dollar. I just made it that dollar one so it wouldn’t be the same amount,” she said.

The total GAF increase would then be $4.01. With $1.01 in FY 2021, it would leave a $340,817 deficit for athletics, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Michaela Willis.

The allocations to athletics would be $3 per credit hour in FY 2020 to Frost Arena renovations and a $1.01 per credit hour increase in FY 2021. In FY 2020 there’s a $2.49 redirection of current student dollars from Student Union and the Wellness Center Maintenance and Repair funds to Frost renovations.

“[One of the pros is] getting close to the deficit, but not completely fulfilling it. That gives empowerment to the students, that lets the students know that we hear our voice,” Sen. Alvey, who voted in favor, said.

The only person who voiced discontent was Vice President Spencer Harwood who originally changed the number from $2.47 to 51 cents per credit hour. The amendment passed 16-12.

Other debates

In the beginning, senators felt “uncomfortable” passing the GAF strategic plan knowing it funded athletic operations while students voiced they didn’t want their money to go there.

Out of the 3,327 students that responded to the GAF strategic plan general survey, 61 percent supported no increase for funding to athletics, 23 percent support below the proposed level of $2.47 and 15.5 percent support at or above $2.47.

Senator’s got hung up on a debate about whether or not it was right to go against the students’ majority and give money to athletics.

“Can we be sure that students understand that $2.49 isn’t coming out their pockets?” Sen. Vukovich.

Sen. Longtin wasn’t convinced the students will still put money toward something they obviously don’t want.

“I don’t know how we can turn our back,” Sen. Longtin said, who voted against the plan.

Another concern for senators was the message passing the allocation sent to students. Because athletics receive benefits, like tutors and athletic trainers, other students who struggle to afford college, some senators couldn’t justify paying for athletics.

“When increasing this amount, consider the students that are not going to be able to pay that and not return back to the university,” Adviser Florencia Aranda III said. “That is a reality we should face and you can roll your eyes, you can be against me, that’s fine. But you’re talking about a deficit these students did not ask for and now you’re asking these students to take on more charges.”

Government Affairs Chair McDougall agreed with Dr. Flo, saying the Senate might not be representative of these students because they “come from a point of privilege.”

Sen. Hannah Smith said despite the cuts, it seemed ethical to leave a deficit and have the rest of the money come from academic departments.

“Learning about the consequence of this didn’t change my opinion, I guess it just made me question the ethicality of it,” Sen. Hannah Smith said.

Talks began about a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between SA and athletics since senators weren’t convinced athletics would be “transparent as to where all the funds were going” as Sen. Amanda Husted said.

The steering committee talked at length about it and it’s “assumed that a memorandum will be established” according to Sen. Nick Lorang. President Allyson Monson said SA will create a committee to focus on the terms in the MOU.

“After tonight’s meeting, after whatever plan we pass we’ll work together as that committee, present that to the Senate and go forward and present in front of the Board of Regents with that memorandum,” President Monson said.

Director of Athletics Justin Sell wasn’t opposed to an MOU in the slightest, he said in the meeting.

Vice President Harwood said we need to have “good faith” in athletics and understand they will follow through on its promises.

“Granted we don’t have the final decision, but this is our opportunity to say ‘hey we don’t want any more cuts from departments’ and that’s our voice. This is the way to do it. We can put that in the MOU,” Sen. Vukovich said.

Since Monday, President Monson has been creating a task force of senators to prepare the MOU. A task force is different than a committee since a committee is longstanding.