ASOSU, Athletics, Memorial Union recommended student fee levels fail

Jade Minzlaff, News Contributor

Editor’s note: The Daily Barometer is part of Student Experiences and Engagement, one of the eight student fee-funded units.

Correction: This article previously misspelled Raven Waldron’s name. Additionally, Deb Mott’s quote was edited for more clarity. These issues have been resolved. The Barometer regrets the errors. 

ASOSU’s second congressional joint session on student fee recommendations was held on Jan. 15 in the Memorial Union Ballroom, where student representatives from the House and Senate voted to either approve the Student Fee Committee’s recommended changes to student fees for the 2020-21 school year, or to vote against them to send them into mediation. 

During the Jan. 15 meeting, of the eight student fee-funded units whose recommended fee levels were being voted on, ASOSU, Athletics and the Memorial Union were the only units whose fee levels were voted to go into mediation. The Athletics unit in particular was debated extensively.

Any bills that failed to pass will be sent to the mediation committee, where the necessary student fees for the unit will be reevaluated in longer discussion. The mediation committee consists of the ASOSU speaker-chair, the ASOSU vice president, the SFC chair, five SFC members, three representatives and three senators. 

If a bill passes both the House and the Senate during the joint session, the student government-approved student fee recommendations will be passed onto the ASOSU president, where it will be signed or vetoed. If the ASOSU president signs the bill, it will continue on to university leadership for approval, before being enacted in fall term of 2020. 

In the previous joint session, concerns had been raised that the recommended student fees for the ASOSU unit would not be sufficient to maintain the SafeRide program as it is now. The recommended  fee level was $24.57 per student in fall, winter and spring terms, an increase of 6.18%. 

Speaking in favor of the ASOSU fee unit continuing into mediation, Representative Laura Love advocated for the unit to increase their recommended fees in order to maintain SafeRide, a transportation service funded by student government.

“SafeRide has saved numerous students from driving when they shouldn’t have been,” Love said. 

Shay Norman, Faculty Advisor for student government, advocated for mediation and spoke about the benefits that the SafeRide program provides students. 

“I want to share that when I was riding SafeRide in a student capacity, being new to Oregon, being black, not knowing what to expect, I left feedback that I felt the process could be improved. Within the week the feedback I gave had been implemented,” Norman said. “Students do say that it makes them feel safe. It is a service that enhances the student experience.” 

The recommendation for ASOSU’s student fees failed in both the House and Senate, with no votes in favor, and will continue on to mediation. 

The bill to decrease student fees toward the Athletics unit failed, in which a recommendation had been given by the SFC to decrease the student fees going toward the unit by 9.36%. 

On the possibility of a decrease in funding affecting student mental-health services, Kimya Massey, senior associate athletic director, said, “We aren’t able to meet the needs currently. We need to do more. Yes, it [the suggested student fee decrease] will impact student health and wellness services. Student employment could be affected as well,” Massey said. “We share a position with CAPS [Counseling and Psychological Services], but there’s a long waiting line. It’s a challenge to get mental-health resources.”

On other possible effects of a student fee decrease toward Athletics, Massey mentioned other services Athletics provides.

Currently, students playing recreational sports can use the fields from 6 p.m. – 12 a.m. for free every day. Massey said. “We would potentially need to renegotiate our agreement with Rec sports in terms of utilizing our fields, which could lead to increased student fees. There would be services reduced for students.”

Dylan Perfect, former ASOSU senator, suggested that discussions about adverse effects to critical services funded by Athletics indicated that reforms should be made in how funding is distributed. 

“I’d encourage you all on a philosophical level to question the system of taxing ourselves on resources like student health and wellness, although I recognize that this cut is not the right way to start this conversation,” Perfect said. 

Representative Jack Hill said he agreed with Perfect on the necessity for structural change in the funding of student services. 

“I don’t think it’s sustainable to fund student mental health with the system as-is,” Hill said.

Jacque Bruns, senior associate athletic director, reported that the Athletics program runs “approximately 1.3 million dollars deficit annually,” and that previously, “one of the positions that was within their life skills program was cut.” 

Raven Waldron, an SFC member and pharmacy student at OSU, spoke in favor of the Athletics fee decrease recommended by SFC in order to make the university more financially accessible.  

“I love all these programs but the burden to pay for them is on students’ backs. As a student who struggles financially to be here, I want to urge the committee to reframe their mindset of ‘just three dollars a year, just three dollars a term’, to not a ‘just’, but as what may be the difference as to if some of our students can afford college,” Waldron said.

Trenton Joiner, director of Diversity Initiatives and Student Advisory Board chair, advocated for mediation to benefit students in athletics.

“I interact with student athletes on a day-to-day basis, we all need to remember that student athletes are students too. They carry a huge responsibility they didn’t ask for. Like it or not, student athletics affects enrollment,” Joiner said. “There’s a lot of stigma against student athletes, but they benefit the school. I think you all should go to mediation. If you accept this bill, you all will be hurting the wrong people.” 

Representative Ethan Putnam advocated for mediation due to student jobs funded by the Athletics unit.

 “I don’t think any of us here could vote yes and sleep at night knowing that we cut student jobs. On the other side of the coin, we’re taxing ourselves,” Putnam said. 

Bruns reported that approximately 388 students are currently employed by Athletics.

Senator Michael Haffner advocated for mediation in order to give the conversation over Athletics more careful discussion. 

“There’s a lot more to this conversation than we can have in two joint congresses,” Haffner said. “A $3.81 change is less than 1% of total student fees, and, in my opinion, is well worth the investment for the returns.”

The Memorial Union fee unit was the third and final student fee that was voted to enter mediation, after the recommended fee of $71.02 per student in fall, winter and spring term, a 21.31% increase from the previous year, did not pass. 

Long term, “[the MU] will need approximately 15 million dollars over the next 10 years,” Deb Mott, director of the MU said. The annual operating expenses of the MU keep increasing, and a student fee increase will support the costs of maintaining the building each year.

Love advocated for the MU bill to go into mediation. “I feel like the MU has enough major needs that have been cultivating, that even though this is a major change, we still need more,” Love said. “We need to bring more awareness to the needs of the heart of our campus.” 

The student fee units whose recommended student fee levels were approved were the Human Services Resource Center, Recreational Sports, Student Experiences and Engagement, the Family Resource Center, and Performing Arts.