November 16, 2007

S.A. Subsidizes C.U. Athletic Tix

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Amidst a controversial decision by the Student Assembly executive committee to revise the policy of appropriating funds, the S.A. Appropriations Committee approved an arrangement with the Athletics Department to make Big Red Sports Passes available to all undergraduate students at no cost. The plan, finalized by a vote taken last night, will subsidize the cost of the Pass with funds from the 2008-2010 Student Activity Fee.
The new policy will permit all undergraduate students who sign up within a specified time frame to receive subsidized sports passes, as opposed to paying the current fee of $40. Homecoming will remain free to all students, including those who do not sign up for the Pass. Hockey season passes are not included in the Pass. The policy will also allocate funding for promotions and marketing plans targeted toward undergraduates.
According to the S.A. website, the current Student Activity Fee is $182. None of it is distributed to athletics. Under the new policy, according the Adam Gay ’08, vice president for finance of the S.A., the recommended funding distributed to athletics would be $9.95 per student, taken from the Fee.
Of the total allocation to the Athletics Department, $3.85 per student, will fund promotions and marketing campaigns, targeted at undergraduate students to attend athletic events.
Gay asserted that the decision to make a change in the allocation of the Fee was a “mutual process” through which the athletic department applied and was assessed like every other group that is allocated funding from the S.A.
According to C.J. Slicklen ’09, executive vice president of the S.A, every two years the S.A. reassesses the allocation of funding from the S.A. Proposed allocations must then be voted upon by the S.A., before being presented to the Board of Trustees.
Last night’s meeting brought the S.A. face to face with Athletics Director Andy Noel and Jeffrey Hall, director of sports marketing. Alongside the two representatives of the Athletic Department sat Slicklen, who served as S.A. liaison to the Athletics Department. The meeting allowed the S.A. to thoroughly deliberate the decision to allocate funding to the Athletics Department, before voting to finalize the decision.
Ahmed Salem ’08, voting member of the S.A., expressed concern that too much priority was being given to the subsidized Pass, which will not affect the current price of men’s ice hockey season ticket packages, which currently is $247.
“I have full faith that whatever money you get will be spent well,” Salem expressed to the representatives of the Athletic Department. “I just want to say, from what I hear from students, hockey is where the biggest school spirit is.”
While the Student Activity Fee is currently covered by Financial Aid packages, the cost of hockey season tickets is not.
Mazdak Asgary ’08, voting member of the S.A., further expressed concern about the transparency of the athletics budget.
“I’d like to see guarantees about how much of the money is going where,” Asgary said.
Mark Coombs ’08, director of elections and former S.A. executive vice president, expressed discontent, specifically at the S.A. executive board, regarding Slicklen being situated alongside the Athletics Department.
“Regardless of the support of athletics, having the executive vice president on the side of the Department is not good for the morale [of the S.A.],” said Coombs, who is also a Sun columnist.
The finalization of the appropriation of athletic funding comes at a time when the S.A. executive committee is already under harsh criticism. Yesterday, The Sun reported on the disapproving response from S.A. alumni and Class Council representatives regarding the committee’s potential decision to limit class council activities in the appropriation of the S.A.’s funding of student organizations.
According to The Sun, concerns were expressed regarding the “clarifications” to the byline funding procedure made by the executive committee.
Regardless of such debate, the S.A. voted 19-3 to approve the decision of the appropriations committee, endorsing the subsidization of the cost of sports passes.
Noel commended the S.A. for its decision to subsidize the cost of the Pass, attributing the success of the plan entirely to the S.A. “This was not something I thought of. It was something [the S.A.] came up with because they wanted to initiate a plan,” Noel said.
“To be honest, as a department we need to find new ways to generate income; we have a major responsibility, budget wise, to meet,” Noel said.
According to Noel, the current athletic season has seen a great increase in the number of attendees. Noel cited that this year’s football season has averaged 8,900 attendees per home game football, an increase from the average of 5,000 attendees per game last season.
Free admission to athletic events is not a new policy. Prior to the fall of 2006, students were granted free admission to all varsity athletic events with the exception of men’s ice hockey games and playoff contests. According to The Sun, the Athletics Department was forced to begin charging an entrance fee to athletic events after “being denied byline funding by the S.A. after missing the proposal deadline.”
Elan Greenberg ’08, president of the S.A., praised the subsidization of the Pass.“By eliminating the financial burden of being a sports fan at Cornell, we hope that the community will embrace the opportunity to stand behind our players and coaches and embrace the dynamic athletics program available on campus,” Greenberg said.