Campus Rec hits the showers

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Maybe they just got bored.

After approving five referendum questions for student voting in the University of Calgary Students' Union general elections, the Students' Legislative Council pulled the plug on a sixth. On Tue., Feb 5,
SLC rejected a plebiscite question proposal from Director of Campus Recreation Rob Stinson for an increase of $26.25 per semester to the Campus Recreation levy.

"I'm disappointed," said Stinson after the 13-7 negative vote. "My interpretation of the vote is that they were voting against this funding model and deciding on behalf of students that [students] would have no opportunity to express their opinion."

The funds generated by the levy increase were to be used as a capital fee to finance 80 per cent of the cost of a new Campus Recreation facility. Stinson presented a detailed proposal to SLC on Jan. 29 that included the results of a 1997 survey of Campus Recreation users. The survey results indicated that cramped workout facilities in the Fitness and Lifestyle Centre and a lack of locker availability were the two areas of prime concern for users of the current facility, prompting the formulation of a plan to redevelop and expand Kinesiology Block A. The increased levy would have been in effect for 20 years following completion of the building.

"This is a long term project," explained Stinson. "We identified a need to alleviate crowding of the fitness centre and lockers and we examined different models to find a cost-effective solution."

The proposed expansion would be approximately 125,000 square feet in which a new 25,000-square foot Fitness and Lifestyle Centre and running track would be housed. The new facility would also house multi-purpose rooms, more than double the current locker room space and carry a total price tag of
$22, 833,033.

"I absolutely believe there's a need for a new facility, but this is not the right way to do it," said Students' Union President Barb Wright. "My biggest reason for voting against the question is a philosophical reason that we should not be paying for the construction of buildings. Those costs should come from our tuition, not separate fees."

Several councillors expressed concern during the meeting that alternative sources of funding had not been adequately explored before turning to student pockets and that students were being used as "political pawns" by university administrators.

"I'm trying on behalf of students to provide a solution to a problem identified by students-it has nothing to do with pawns," responded Stinson. "The provincial government does not have the money and if it became available, there are other priorities on campus ahead of us. So we could sit and wait. Or, students could say this is important and they're willing to contribute, but the SU has decided they shouldn't have the opportunity to express that opinion."

Fundraising and projected business revenue generated by Campus Recreation are expected to account for the other 20 per cent of the mortgage payment on the building. Construction of the facility cannot begin until the Board of Governors approves the business plan for the facility, a decision that will not be made until funding has been secured. Stinson explained that fundraising from the private sector is ongoing, that the $26.25 increase is a maximum to be levied only after the facility's completion and that the levy of a capital fee to finance recreation facilities is an emerging trend in Canadian universities. Nonetheless, putting the question to the students was not an option.

"If this would have gone to plebiscite, the vote would have been taken as supporting information to the governing bodies of the university to get support for the project," she said. "I have a problem with a director of a unit using student support to forcibly get on the list of priorities."

Wright suggested that a revisitation of the business proposal and increased efforts in fundraising would be of benefit in increasing support for the expansion.

"If this idea were sold the right way to private sponsors, we could build a facility not 80 per cent funded by students," she said. "But this is not something I believe SLC should be sending to students. We'd be supporting an increase in student fees outside the tuition fee policy and unmanaged by students."

According to 2001 figures, approximately 16,700 students use the FLC and comprise 80 per cent of users.