Strong aversion to UH fee
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Associated Students of the University of Hawai'i remains "strongly opposed" to the proposed $50 per semester student athletic fee, incoming president Andrew Itsuno said yesterday.
After more than a year of discussion and rewriting of proposals by the athletic department, University of Hawai'i-Mānoa Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw notified students she is "recommending a student athletic fee to the UH Board of Regents."
In a campuswide e-mail to students Sunday, Hinshaw said, "although this is a difficult decision, I believe that it is time to move forward on this fee." She said she is recommending the latest proposal because the athletic department has "improved oversight and tangible benefits for students."
The proposal could go to the regents for review as soon as July. But UH officials have said that even with regents' approval it likely would not be put into place until January 2011.
UH said free seats will be set aside for students at athletic events, including 5,000 for football games at Aloha Stadium. UH said the fee is expected to generate approximately $2 million, which would help the athletic department balance its budget. The department has run at a deficit seven of the previous eight years and is projecting a $2 million deficit for the fiscal year that closes June 30.
Two previous ASUH leaderships have opposed the fee and Itsuno said the incoming one remains against it on several points: "There is no student support for it," Itsuno said in an e-mail, adding, "77% of the students that responded to the ASUH survey opposed the fee. The Athletic Department refused numerous requests by ASUH to conduct their own survey on the student body."
In addition, Itsuno said, "We oppose the fee because there is no transparency, the Athletic Department refuses to provide us with a budget to justify the fee. When they tried to pass the fee through the Student Activities and Program Fee Board, which the board failed to pass, they said that $37.50 would be enough. In a span of a few months the fee proposed is now $50. How is the number justified? Why was the fee raised? Also, how has the Athletic Department been paying its annual deficits?"
Moreover, Itsuno said, "We oppose the fee because of the lack of research on the benefits it will have for the students. For example, in the proposal, athletics will hold a free concert for the students. Students already pay a fee to the Campus Center to hold free concerts. Why should students be taxed twice for the same benefit?"
Hinshaw said in her e-mail to the students that approximately $100,000 from the fee will be used to support a variety of activities for students and, in addition, the athletic department will host a free concert for students.
Hinshaw said, "The projected $2 million raised annually by this fee will clearly strengthen our UH athletic program's ability to provide successful experiences for all our student-athletes, specifically through scholarships, travel, materials and supplies and other expenses directly beneficial to student-athletes. This support is critically important in the area of gender equity because most of our Wahine sports programs — our terrific softball program, for example — need such support to thrive since such sports generate limited income."