WSU athletics debt may spawn new student fee

The main campus of Washington State University has accrued a $13 million deficit in an effort to upgrade the athletics department. Multiple meetings have taken place between President Kirk Schulz and Athletic Director Bill Moos following Schulz’s inauguration in order to find a solution for the financial burden.

Much of the money for paying down the deficit is expected to come from additional Cougar Athletic Fund donations in Pullman. However, not all of the money will be coming from that source.

Schulz and Moos have discussed implementing a student fee to help pay down the deficit linked to athletics. With a target of $1.7 million by 2018, this would mean an additional $100 paid by undergraduates each school year. The fee would, as currently projected, only affect Pullman students.

Some of those students – including ASWSU President Taylor Christensen – are apprehensive about any extra money that must be put forth to fund their education.

Last month the Board of Regents met to review the plan proposed by Schulz and Moos. The fee will be put to a vote during the upcoming spring semester.

Many students do not participate in the referendum process, which is concerning to some on the university Board of Regents. Joan King, chief university budget officer, told The Daily Evergreen, Pullman’s campus newspaper, that since students historically have not participated in the referendum process, their voices concerning the new fee might not be heard. This is the same, in the university’s eyes, as voting in favor of the fee.

The referendum process is the only option that is open for students to declare whether or not they approve of this plan. As such, incoming Pullman freshmen may be left with a fee that they had no say in, say critics of the process.

Discussions about a Pullman student fee come at a time when the Pullman athletics program has come under increasing scrutiny for the actions of some student athletes.

There have been a large number of assault allegations against members of the WSU football team. Football players Robert Barber and Toso Fehoko were recently charged with second-degree assault after a chaotic brawl broke out in July that left several people injured. Players Logan Tago and Shalom Luani were charged for assault in separate incidents.                

The athletics fee would not be implemented until 2018, and is still under consideration. According to Schulz, students would not be expected to pay down the entire deficit. If implemented, the student fees would cover $2 million of the deficit. Schulz said that other methods of reducing the deficit will also be implemented over the next several years. These other fixes, according to Schulz, will not directly affect WSU students.

UPDATED from Issue 5, printed on Oct. 17, 2016

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