Fee Increase Faces ‘Vote No’ Campaign
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A movement by some members of the student body has sprung forward against the increase in the athletic fee that a near-future referendum will decide, and graduate student Chris Lindsey, the leader of the movement, mainly cites the imbalance in cultural focus between athletics and academics among other reasons.
“You have this duality in Texas between athletics and academics, and you would figure that at a educational institution that academics would be prioritized and it hasn’t been,” Lindsey said. “This whole issue revolves around ‘we have to fund athletics more so we can give more money back to academics’, but to me, that doesn’t make any sense. If academics should be our main focus, we should have always funded academics properly.”
According to Lindsey, if students vote to increase the athletic fee, it may only serve as a stopgap for a number of years, and because the athletic program is exploding in terms of growth, more referendums to increase the athletic fee may appear in the future, which will raise the cost of tuition for incoming students.
“They might give the money to academics,” Lindsey conceded, “but as we’ve seen how our athletics program is now is that it’s growing exponentially. What keeps this from being an issue five years down the road, five years after that, and five years after that? I’m not saying that we totally gut athletics, but I’m a big fan of moderation when you can get it. You have to make trade-offs and balances.”
Because of statewide hiring freeze passed down from Governor Greg Abbott that will last until the end of August, universities are squeezed for state funds to hire new faculty, and to collect the necessary funds, the students have to agree to a local fee increase. However, Lindsey proposes another, student-led solution.
“Instead of raising fees, you have thousands of students here, have thousands upon thousands of students across the state of Texas, and if they were mobilized politically [by the university administration or the Student Government Association to stop the freeze], I would see that as a more viable option,” he said, “because it takes care of the short-term concerns and takes care of the long-term issue of making sure that we have adequate funding for our university.”
The only agencies not affected are agencies without any state funding or that have an impact on public safety. Waivers to have this hiring freeze lifted are available through the Governor’s Office of Budget and Policy, but they are given out on a case-by-case basis.
“When you’re here [at this university], decisions being made at the state and even the national level do affect you, and this would be a prime example,” Lindsey pointed out. “The university is saying that state is cutting their funding and not allowing us to hire people using state money, and so they need to find a different way. The different way for me is to tell the state government ‘No, this is not acceptable’.”
The movement is pushing its ideas through word of mouth and social media, and while not highly structured, the movement is still being moderately successful in voicing its opinion on the referendum. When students vote on the referendum, Lindsey wants them to remember the possible far-reaching effects of it.
“When you’re deciding on this issue, it can’t be based on purely self-interest,” he said. “You have to look out for the people who are coming after you and the people who come after them. That’s just part of leaving a legacy.”