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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Referendum for athletic portion of student fees proposed at Nov. 12 COSAF meeting

Members of the Council on Student Affairs and Fees are working to eliminate annual student fees that go toward funding Intercollegiate Athletics

By SOPHIE DEWEES — campus@theaggie.org

On Nov. 12, members of the Council on Student Affairs and Fees (COSAF) met to discuss a proposed referendum on the athletics portion of student fees. Each student currently pays $571.41 in annual fees to fund UC Davis Athletics and athletic scholarships as a part of the Student Activities and Services Initiative (SASI) and the Campus Expansion Initiative (CEI) which makes athletics the largest recipient of student fees for both SASI and CEI. The referendum proposes eliminating these fees entirely.

If passed, it would not take effect until fall 2023. As with previous fee referenda, it will require a minimum of 20% participation by the undergraduate student body and, of those 20%, 60% must vote yes for it to pass.

Drawing on the university’s previous fundraising successes, such as the $1.3 billion raised during UC Davis’ ongoing comprehensive campaign, voting member of COSAF and fourth-year political science and history double major Calvin Wong, who provided a presentation at the beginning of the meeting, said that the university has the ability to fund athletics without receiving financial support from its students.

“Fundamentally, that is what this referendum is about: to shift the burden of funding the athletics program to those who have expressed desire and have proven themselves to be capable of being able to fundraise the necessary fees and funds to support the Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) program without needing student fees,” Wong said.

According to Chancellor Gary May, as quoted on the UC Davis Athletics website from a 2018 interview, the university values the role students play in funding its athletics program.

“I should point out, that our most important donors for athletics are our students,” May said in the article. “Student fees are important for much of what happens in athletics. Like I said, if I think athletics is a priority for the university — and it is — then I have to be involved in making sure it is properly resourced. That includes fundraising.”

In the interview, May then went on to describe a partnership between UC Davis Athletics and UC Davis Health on a $40 million student-athlete performance center project in 2018, highlighting it as “a strong example of how we work together for the benefit of our students.”

As a result of these fees, students are able to attend football games for free. Wong said, however, that the athletics portion of student fees predominantly benefits the approximately 700 student-athletes on campus, who make up 2% of the undergraduate population at UC Davis. They provide funding for team travel, varsity athletic equipment, coach salaries, medical expenses and athletic scholarships which, Wong said, only impact student-athletes. These fees, he said, are “inherently unjust,” and therefore an instantaneous decrease, as proposed in the referendum, is necessary.

Andrea Gomez Lloret, a fourth-year managerial economics major and a member of the women’s golf team, said in her presentation at the meeting that she believes UC Davis Athletics is only sustainable because of student fees.

“Without the contribution of fees to athletics, UC Davis would not be a competitive, Division I institution,” Gomez Lloret said.

Madelin Smith, a fourth-year biological sciences major and a member of the beach volleyball team who presented at the meeting, echoed Gomez Lloret’s statement. 

“Of course we want to be fully supported by the administration, but it seems that it might be a bit unrealistic to expect them to find this money […] all of a sudden,” Smith said. “I feel that if we weren’t to have these fees, student-athletes would be in charge of having more fundraising which, to be honest, student-athletes really don’t have time for.”

Wong noted in his presentation that at other universities within the UC system, students pay far less in athletics fees. At UC Berkeley, for example, students paid approximately $15 to fund the ICA program in the 2019-2020 school year in contrast with the $660 UC Davis students paid that year.

He emphasized that the referendum does not aim to get rid of the athletics program.

“That assertion can be nothing further from the truth,” Wong said. “ICA should be funded by the university, not 98% of students who do not get anything out of these fees.”

Written by: Sophie Dewees — campus@theaggie.org


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