After a lengthy debate at the Students' Union Students' Legislative Council meeting on Tue., Jan. 18, the long-awaited Dinos Athletics levy increase plebiscite question was voted onto the SU General Election ballot.
For full-time students, the fee increase would raise the Dinos Athletics levy from the current $33.50 to $39.50 for the 2005-2006 academic year, with subsequent $1.50 increases for each of the next three years. For part-time students, the current fee of $16.75 would be more than doubled, increasing the fee to match the full-time students' rate of $39.50 next year. If accepted, the increase will raise the Dinos Athletic levy to $44 per semester for all students by 2008.
If the plebiscite fails, Dinos Athletics claims 14 teams from the current slate of 22 will be axed from the program. However, there is speculation that even if the plebiscite were to fail, the university would supply the needed funding. U of C President Harvey Weingarten is hoping that students will step up to support the Dinos in the plebiscite.
"Student support in the upcoming plebiscite would go a long way toward easing pressure on the Athletics budget," said Weingarten in an e-mail to U of C Alumni Association members. "It is by no means inevitable that if the plebiscite is not passed all but a handful of programs will be cut."
The pressure Weingarten refers to was caused by the budget reallocations proposed in the U of C draft budget directive, which calls for each faculty and department to redirect five per cent of their total operating budget into a reallocation pool used to fund as yet unidentified priority areas.
According to University of Calgary Vice-President Finance and Services Mike McAdam, the faculty of Kinesiology suggested the fee increase in the face of these budget reallocations.
U of C VP External Roman Cooney said that reducing funding to Dinos Athletics should not be understood as a lack of support by university administration.
"No one should read into this plebiscite that we don't support Dinos Athletics," said Cooney. "There is a high level of support for Dinos Athletics at the university and we think it's extremely important that students support this. The university can't require students to pay a levy, but at the end of the day, it's the students' decision and we will respect it."
The SU is pleased that students are being consulted in this process.
"We don't think that decisions about students fees should be made by us or by the university unilaterally," said SU President Bryan West. "We have a long tradition of putting every single fee to a plebiscite or a referendum. We feel that it should go to plebiscite, but to a degree, there has been some contention on the part of administration of Dinos Athletics that it's not the proper way to go."
Events Commissioner Mike Corbeill supports bringing the levy to a plebiscite, but feels the drastic increase in the fee for part-time students is unfair and may jeopardize the success of the plebiscite. However, External Commissioner Matt Jenkins disagreed, stating that free admission to Dinos games and equal access to athletic facilities for both full and part-time students should mean equal fees.
Until the plebiscite question has been answered by the student body, and the U of C budget is finalized in April, the future of Dinos Athletics will remain questionable.
Dinos Athletics Director Don Wilson refused comment.